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Background document and questionnaire for EIRO comparative study on ‘Economically dependent workers’ Background and aims The concept of ‘economically dependent workers’ refers to those workers who do not correspond to the traditional definition of ‘employee’ - essentially because they do not have an employment contract as dependent employees - but who are economically dependent on a single employer for their source of income. The debate focuses on emerging employment arrangements which are ‘mid-way’ between self-employment and dependent employment. Economically dependent workers have some characteristics of both: 1) they are formally self-employed (they usually have a sort of ‘service contract’ with the employer); 2) they depend on one single employer for their income (or large part of it). In some cases, economically dependent workers may also be similar to employees from other points of view: 1. lack of a clear organisational separation - ie they work in the employer’s premises and/or use employer’s equipment; 2. no clear distinction of task - ie they perform the same tasks as some of the existing employees, or tasks which were formerly carried out by employees and were later contracted out to ‘collaborators’; and 3. the ‘service’ they sell individually to employers falls outside the traditional scope of ‘professional services’ - ie the tasks are simple, do not require specific skills and no professional knowledge or competence is needed. The existence of such employment arrangements has been highlighted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and is documented in a number of European countries, such as Italy, UK, Germany, Spain and Portugal. The issue was also mentioned in 2000 in the European Commission’s first-stage consultation paper of the social partners on modernising employment relations (EU0007259N). The issue is relevant from the industrial relations' point of view since economically dependent workers do not generally benefit from the protections granted to employees both by law and collective bargaining, including provisions on health and safety, information and consultation, working time, vocational training and social protection. They also fall outside the traditional reach of trade union representation. The aims of this comparative study are to analyse: the scope and relevance of the issue of ‘economically dependent workers’ in each country; the emergence of demands for regulation of this kind of employment arrangement, as articulated in public debate; where relevant, the ways in which ‘economically dependent employment’ has been regulated by law, or the contents of existing proposals in this field; and the role of industrial relations, notably whether trade union representation and collective bargaining are being extended to economically dependent workers. Issues Each national centre should provide information on the following points. A) In your country, are there any employment arrangements which could be classified as ‘economically dependent’ in the sense outlined above? In other terms, are there formally self-employed people who are dependent on one employer (or a few employers) for their income and are not clearly distinguishable from employees as regards the organisation and the content of their jobs (see above for details)? Please illustrate the main features of such employment arrangements. Is there an employment status which is specific to these workers or do they belong to a general definition of self-employment? B) Even if there are no workers who could be classified as ‘economically dependent’, please indicate specifically: which are the essential criteria utilised to identify ‘employees’; whether the definition of ‘employee’ is currently the object of any discussion or reconsideration in your country; if there has been any significant labour disputes, grievances or case law which address the demarcation between ‘employee’ and ‘non-employee’ status in order to grant to the latter protections and rights granted to the former, notably as far as workers who could be labelled as ‘economically dependent’ are concerned. C) Are there data on the number of ‘economically dependent workers’? Are there figures on their distribution in the different sectors? In other words, are they particularly present in some specific industries? If so, are there studies available which identify any particular reasons or possible interpretations for this uneven distribution of ‘economically dependent workers’ across sectors? Referring to either official statistics or other research such as case studies (please, indicate the source), try to provide data on ‘economically dependent employment’, as far as the following aspects are concerned: gender; age; education; job positions and skills. D) If there are any relevant statistics or research, please provide information on ‘economically dependent workers’ with regard to: any link to reorganisation processes (that is, does the importance of ‘economically dependent workers’ increase in the event of company restructuring, as a means to reduce costs, increase the firm’s adaptability, etc?); the use of this kind of employment arrangements as a substitute for dependent employees or/and as a possible ‘selection mechanism’ for future recruitment on a permanent employment contract; place of work and integration in the employer’s organisation; wage differentials with respect to employees in similar job positions; working time. E) Is ‘economically dependent employment’ regulated by law in any respects? Where there are legislative provisions, what is the content of the law? In replying to this question, please refer to the following ‘check-list’ of issues for potential legal regulation: wage levels; working time; duration and termination of contract; illness and sick leave; holidays; maternity, parental or sabbatical leave; collective representation; information and consultation; training; health and safety. F) Are there any draft bills or legislative proposals on the regulation of ‘economically dependent employment’? Please, indicate the areas of intervention covered by these proposals, referring to the abovementioned check-list. G) Regardless of the existence of legislative provisions, is there a debate on ‘economically dependent workers’ in your country which highlights their specificities (in particular, their ‘dependence’) and relates to formal recognition (that is the introduction of a specific employment status or the extension of some prerogatives of employees to such workers), especially as regards the protection and rights of this kind of worker? Please, indicate specifically whether, and in what terms, such debate covers the issues of: a) wage levels; b) working time; c) employment security; d) leave periods (illness, maternity, parental or sabbatical leave); d) trade union representation; e) information and consultation; f) vocational training; g) social protection; and h) health and safety regulations. Are any other aspects prominent or relevant in the debate on ‘economically dependent workers’ in your country? Which are the areas where proposals for regulation are mostly controversial in this debate? In covering the debate, please mention specifically the positions of trade unions and employers' associations on ‘economically dependent workers’. H) Are there signs of an extension of the coverage of industrial relations to ‘economically dependent workers’? Essentially, are there developments relating to the following aspects: representation: the creation of new trade union organisations specific to these workers or their representation by existing ones. Please specify the details of any such organisational developments; collective bargaining: the conclusion of collective agreements which cover specifically these workers or the inclusion of chapters on ‘economically dependent workers’ within collective agreements at any level (national, sectoral, territorial, company). If such provisions are present, please specify the content of at least one such collective agreement or chapter (as a reference, try to use the check-list provided for legislative regulation, above in question no. 5). I) Is the issue of ‘economically dependent workers’ (whatever the actual definition utilised in your country) present on the trade union agenda? What are the main strategies, if any, that unions are discussing and implementing with respect to these workers? J) Please, give the NC assessment of the issue of ‘economically dependent workers’ in your country, its present relevance and possible future developments, notably as far as industrial relations are concerned. Length and format National responses should be up to 2,000 words in length. Important: Please use the special EIRO record template sent out with this questionnaire to respond, filling in the answer to each question underneath that question, and then submit it in the normal way. If you have any queries on administrative issues (deadlines, submission etc), please contact Shivaun Lindberg in the first instance. If you have any queries on the content of the information requested, please contact the Italian National Centre (Roberto Pedersini and Marco Trentini), which is coordinating the study. Timing The deadline for the submission of responses to the normal EIRO submission e-mail address by national centres is 15 February 2002. The procedure after that date is as follows: 4. EIRO technical editor passes on national responses to coordinating national centre – Italy. 5. Coordinating national centre produces comparative text. Coordinating national centre returns comparative text to EIRO editing unit for final edit by 28 March 2002. 6. Editor makes queries to national centres and coordinating national centre, as necessary. 7. Comparative text formatted and loaded onto database by 26 April 2002.
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