Workshop: Non-standard and new forms of employment

Challenges to labour law and industrial relations


  • Sabina Stiller, AIAS-HSI, University of Amsterdam

Although labour law and social security law have always been adapting to labour market developments, the transformation of the labour market has been speeding up in the last few decades, relating to greater fragmentation and increasing economic flexibility.

In response, a first trend has been new legal designs of ‘work relationships’ that have seen the light in recent years. At the end of the previous century, there was a lot of attention for flexible forms of work within the legal framework of the employment contract (fixed-term work, on-call contracts, casual work and others). In recent years, the spectrum of work has thus widened to a variety of jobs that differ from the standard employment contract. A second trend has been the rise of self-employed without personnel. The rapid growth of the number of self-employed people in many EU countries raises questions about the desired level of protection and regulatory framework for this group. Views on the latter include a broad spectrum: from "no intervention" (as they are small entrepreneurs); to “providing minimum protection” in case of disability and against payments below the minimum wage; to "all-embracing regulation" in the case of workers who actually act as employees but have not been able to acquire that status (‘’bogus self-employed”).

While the above trends primarily relate to new employment relationships, a third one focuses on new business models that seem to ignore existing employment regulations. They are referred to as the crowd economy and related terms such as sharing, collaborative economy or gig economy.  One example of the latter is the provision of transport by the company Uber. Many of these initiatives are linked to the opportunities offered by digitalization and information technology and at the same time, this trend creates significant societal dilemmas linked to labour law, including issues like equal treatment, dismissal protection, decent wages and social dialogue, as well as to adequate social security protection.

The main aim of this workshop is to bring together socio-legal comparative analyses of how the challenges to labour law and social protection systems - generated by the above described trends (increasing labour market flexibility and the incidence of non-standard and new forms of employment) are  addressed through innovative policy responses, social dialogue and social partner initiatives in several European states.
The various papers examine the consequences of the rise of non-standard and new forms of work in the Netherlands, Germany,  France and Hungary, in the light of:

(i) the impact of these challenges on the extent of protection by labour law/social security protection of (certain groups of) workers,
(ii) the responses in terms of government regulation, jurisprudence, and social partners’ collective forms of regulation,
(iii) the consequences for social partners, in particular trade unions’ strategies (e.g. to deal with potential erosion of membership).