TL;DR – Recommendations must not be at the expense of fair earnings for platform workers.
Digital platforms and technology adoption have drastically changed business models and created new forms of work in labour markets, impacting economies worldwide, including Singapore. According to a street poll by the Straits Times, about seven in ten platform workers joined the gig economy during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Platform workers make up 3% of Singapore’s workforce, or 79,000 people, and they do not fit the traditional parameters of employment laws. For example, are they employees or self-employed? Thus, platform workers have no actual legislation that protects their rights.
For example, the Employment Act limit the work week to 44 hours for employees, but because platform workers are not considered employees, this protection does not apply to them. Thus, it is common to hear of delivery riders or taxi and private hire drivers clocking more than 60 hours weekly. This lack of legislative coverage is one of the many other employment rights that do not cover platform workers.
In a statement on Tuesday (15 Nov), NTUC and its affiliated associations called for better protection of platform workers for long-term financial adequacy, medical and injury coverage and better representation.
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NTUC highlighted that platform workers find it challenging to make CPF contributions as they generally have modest incomes. They also need to do it themselves- in contrast to employees whose CPF contributions are automatically processed by employers. Thus this may lead to insufficient CPF funds to serve workers’ housing and retirement needs.
NTUC urged both platform workers and platform operators to contribute to CPF, “Should CPF contributions be implemented, there needs to be necessary support provided for platform workers through the transition period where CPF contributions are enforced to mitigate the impact on their take-home pay.”
In his Facebook post on Thurs (24 Nov), NTUC’s Secretary General Ng Chee Meng, reiterated the need to support platform workers in meeting their long-term needs through CPF contribution:
“For example, in the CPF space, I recognise potential challenges for some platform workers in meeting immediate needs. We will work with the Government for potential transition measures to support our platform workers. Beyond these immediate steps, NTUC wants to ensure fair wages for the platform workers like we do for unionised workers – that their wages commensurate with their roles, and any measures put in place should not greatly impact their take-home pay. This is the way to ensure a sustainable way to promote better earnings, better welfare and better work prospects for my sisters and brothers in this industry.”
Currently, platform workers are classified as self-employed persons. Therefore, they only need to contribute between 4 percent to 10.5 percent of their income (according to their ages) to MediSave accounts for their healthcare needs.
The Advisory Committee Recommendations
Set up by the Ministry of Manpower in September 2021, the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers has submitted to the Government its recommendations to strengthen protection for platform workers in 3 areas of concern:
✅Ensuring adequate financial protection in case of work injury
✅Improving housing and retirement adequacy
In its statement today (23 Nov), the Ministry of Manpower accepts all 12 recommendations by the Advisory Committee:
- Platform Workers should not be classified as employees.
- Require Platform Companies that exert a significant level of management control over Platform Workers to provide them with certain basic protections.
- Require Platform Companies to provide the same scope and level of work injury compensation as employees’ entitlement under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).
- Require Platform Company that the Platform Worker was working for at the point of injury to be responsible for compensation, based on the Platform Worker’s total earnings from the platform sector in which the injury was sustained.
- Determine sector-specific definitions of when a Platform Worker is considered “at work”.
- Retain the strengths of the current WICA regime, including the provision of work injury compensation insurance through the existing open and competitive insurance market.
- Align CPF contribution rates of Platform Companies and Platform Workers with that of employers and employees respectively, for Platform Workers who are aged below 30 in the first year of implementation.
- Allow older cohorts of Platform Workers who are aged 30 and above in the first year of implementation to opt in to the full CPF contribution regime.
- Require Platform Companies to collect Platform Workers’ CPF contributions to help workers make timely contributions.
- Phase in the increased CPF contributions over five years, unless major economic disruption warrants a longer timeline
- Give Platform Workers the right to seek formal representation through a new representation framework designed for Platform Workers.
- Set up a Tripartite Workgroup on Representation for Platform Workers (TWG) to cocreate the new representation framework.
Enhance the well-being and protection of platform workers!
NTUC supports the recommendations laid out by the Advisory Committee and agrees that they are a step in the right direction to enhance the protection of our platform workers.
According to its media statement on Wed (23 Nov), NTUC highlighted that recommendations must not be at the expense of fair earnings for platform workers.
Ms Yeo Wan Ling, Advisor to the NTA, NPHVA and NDCA, said,
“The roll out of the recommendations is a significant step forward in advancing the protection of platform workers and we are pleased with the progress made. Nonetheless, more work lies ahead to operationalise the recommendations, which we are committed in ensuring that these are not at the expense of our workers’ fair earnings. Our associations will monitor the upcoming implementation of recommendations and continue engaging our platform workers to ensure that their concerns and queries are addressed.”
Ms Yeo also took to Facebook to reaffirm her support for the recommendations.
NTUC invites platform workers to share their queries and concerns with NTUC-affiliated associations – NTA, NPHVA and NDCA which will collectively surface this feedback to the Government.
The government will release more details on the implementation of the recommendations in due course. Furthermore, the government will continue working with platform workers and platform companies to implement the recommendations progressively from the latter part of 2024 at the earliest.