Classification of the Legal Relationship between a Platform and Workers: An Example from the Dutch Legal Service Industry

Reshaping Work in the Platform Economy – International Conference

 

ABSTRACT

 

Classification of the legal relationship between a platform and workers: an example from the Dutch legal service industry

 

Developments in ICT have led to new forms of employment, such as virtual work (work carried out anywhere and anytime, by using a digital tool). This business model has been given different names (platform economy, crowdsourcing,…). Almost any job can be performed under the new model. Not every job has, however, the same features or gives rise to the same risks. There is a broad variation of platforms and there are similarly varied experiences of the platform workers. With regard to the status of platform providers and platform workers, platform work is often located in the gray zone: is the relationship between platform(owners) and platform workers to be qualified as a labour contract or as a commission contract? 

 

In this paper we try to apply two approaches mentioned in literature to analyze the legal position of the stakeholders (platform provider / platform worker), namely a Purposive Approach (G. Davidov) and the idea of functional concept of the employer (J. Prassl). This study will be based on a platform which is established in the Netherlands: ‘Rechtdeur’. Rechtdeur introduces a new, innovative product in the legal services industry that promises a fundamental change in the accessibility, affordability, transparency and accountability of legal solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) and individual clients. It is a marketplace on the internet where those who deliver and those who are in need of legal services meet each other. The necessity for the marketplace was brought about by the increasing inability of law firms to connect to non-corporate clients and the issues that insurance companies have to deliver the availability and quality of service that SME’s and individual clients require. Most salient features of Rechtdeur are: online creation of a case and sharing of all relevant documentation, workers’ access restricted to lawyers from accredited law schools, decision about disposability by lawyers themselves, transparency of costs (amounts determined by the Rechtdeur), payment via platform, quality monitoring by reviews, ‘deactivating’ access in case of low reviews (or other rule violations).       

 

The paper will be structured as follows. We introduce platform work (crowdwork), review regulatory challenges arising from crowdwork and present the two approaches. We outline the characteristics of Rechtdeur and illustrate how the approaches could operate in practice, concluding that RechtDeur workers could be considered as independent contractors, provided certain requirements are fulfilled. 

 

 

 

Victorien Bruggink, LLM

Law Department, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University (NL) 

Co-founder Rechtdeur

 

Dr. Susanne Heeger

Law Department, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University (NL)