Karan Sangani from the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research, Hyderabad writes on Reconceptualising Labour Regulations for workers in the Gig Economy.

Abstract

The prevailing labour jurisprudence categorises a worker as either an ‘employee’ or an ‘independent contractor’ on the basis of the degree of control and supervision exercised by the enterprise. The inception of the gig or sharing economy — characterised by the prevalence of digital platforms, who avail the services of workers categorised as business partners or self-employed — has substantially altered labour relations. Given the nature of labour relations in the gig economy, it becomes difficult to systematically sort workers in the gig economy into any one of these employment categories. As a result, it has led to unpredictability regarding the applicability of labour laws to workers in the gig economy.

This paper uses the case study of Ola and Uber drivers, who constitute an important element of the labour force, to highlight that the business model employed by entities in the gig economy has the potential to undermine the welfare goals of different labour regulations. In this paper, the Labour Market Regulations perspective, as propounded by Professor John Howe, has been utilised to demonstrate that the prevailing labour regulations fail to cater to workers in the gig industry and there is a need to redefine labour relationships in light of the prevailing industrial policy. In this regard, this paper envisages the creation of a separate employment status of ‘dependent contractors’ for workers in the gig economy in order to ensure that the new industrial policy does not erode the socio-economic objectives of various labour regulations in India.