A new government-commissioned report into the Victorian gig economy has been released. Here are its recommendations to improve conditions for workers.

(Jeffrey Greenberg, Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • A new report into the gig economy in Victoria has been released.
  • The report highlights the conditions of workers in the gig economy and offers recommendations on how it can be improved.
  • The recommendations include more clarification of the status of workers and the creation of a support agency to help workers with disputes.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A new report into the gig economy in Victoria has been released, providing recommendations on how the system can be fairer to workers.

The Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce was chaired by Natalie James, the former Fair Work Ombudsman, and commissioned by the Victorian Government in 2018. The report was announced in response to concerns about the conditions and wages of workers in the gig economy.

The inquiry involved almost 100 written submissions, consultations with more than 200 participants and a survey of 14,000 respondents over participating in the gig economy. It provides recommendations for both the Commonwealth government and the Victorian government to improve conditions for gig workers.

“The gig economy is relied upon by millions of consumers and workers across the country, but there are holes when it comes to industrial relations that put workers’ rights to fair pay and conditions at risk,” Minister for Industrial Relations Tim Pallas said in a statement.

“This report will help plug the gaps that leave workers in these industries exposed and give workers a fair deal.”

The top five platforms used by Victorians were Airtasker (34.85%), Uber (22.7%), Freelancer (11.8%), Uber Eats (10.8%) and Deliveroo (8.2%). On average, gig workers worked for 10 hours per week – 8.2 hours for women and 10.8 hours for men – with the main reason people signing up to the platform being to “earn extra money” and for its flexibility.

The largest age group of workers are the 18–34 age group (20%) followed by people aged 35–49 (14.8%).

But when it comes to their pay, report noted that while some industries “reward workers well”, others’ wages “may fall well below the national minimum wage”.

“For example, rates for platform workers in certain sectors indicate that some receive high wages that compensate them for the lack of employment-like entitlements,” the report said. “Platform hospitality workers report similar hourly rates to casual employees in the same business, but this is before platform fees are deducted. Other entitlements are absent.”

The report also looked at how platforms in the gig economy operate.

“Platforms have been deliberate in framing their arrangements with workers,” the report said. “This enables platforms to avoid the operation of close and detailed labour regulation while other businesses are carrying the costs of complying with those requirements.

To support workers in the gig economy, the report issued a list of recommendations for both the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.

Here is a summary of the key recommendations of the report.

Clarify work status

One of the biggest issues in the gig economy relates to a person’s work status – for example whether they are employees or self employed. The report considered the work status to be the “root cause of the gig economy’s failings”.

The Inquiry recommends that the work status be clarified so that there is no doubt about a worker’s (or businesses) status and, as a result, their entitlements, protections and obligations. This includes everything from fair treatment to health and safety to insurance.

“The basis for the application of entitlements, protections and obligations should be clearer,” the report said.

“Genuinely self-employed, autonomous business people should operate under commercial arrangements. Workers who operate as part of another’s business or enterprise should be covered by protections and entitlements provided by labour regulation.”

Streamline advice and support for gig workers

The report called for there to be a Streamlined Support Agency for gig workers to help them understand their entitlements and ehelp them resolve disputes. This is especially the case for “low-leveraged” workers who have less opportunities to earn an income and have high competition for work.

Fast-track resolutions

Because the uncertainty of a worker’s status is a major issue, the report recommends there should be faster and easier ways to resolve their status rather than individuals having to go to court after there has been a breach.

Provide fair conduct for platform workers

Another recommendation is the creation of “Fair Conduct and Accountability Standards”. These set of principles would cover elements like fair conditions and pay, dispute resolution and worker safety, and should be developed together with industry, workers and other stakeholders.

The report also pointed out that “non-employee platform workers are inhibited from negotiating their work arrangements with platforms by Commonwealth competition laws.” As a result, it is recommending that gig workers aren’t prevented from collectively bargaining with platforms about their work arrangements under competition laws.

Improve remedies for non-employee workers

The report calls for improved remedies for gig workers who challenge the fairness of their work arrangements.

Ensure compliance is enforced

Lastly, the report highlighted that there has been “extensive documented non-compliance with the fair work act”. It wants to ensure companies are complying with at least the minimum employment standards to make sure there’s a fair market for labour.

How unions have responded to the recommendations

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) supported the recommendations from the Inquiry, with National Secretary Michael Kaine saying it reinforced a need for the federal government to step in and protect gig economy workers.

“The report also shows how given the growing numbers of workers in the gig economy, some of them vulnerable young and migrant workers, that the Federal Government can no longer ignore the problems,” he said in a statement.

“The Inquiry obtained information from the ATO showing a 249% per cent increase in ABNs in the transport, postal and warehousing industry. This shows the army of rideshare drivers and food delivery riders who are powering the gig economy without any protections or rights.”

The Australian Council of Trade Unions also praised the report’s findings.

“At the moment so called-gig economy workers have less rights than workers 100 years ago. They deserve the same rights as all other Australian workers,” ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said in a statement.

“By allowing these workers to be exploited by their employers and by the so-called gig economy system, our Government is not only turning their back on the workers and their families, but is also creating an unfair system for employers who have to compete against these companies.”

The Victorian Government will consider the report, and provide a consultation period with businesses and workers before responding to the recommendations.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.