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Young Workers Centre YWC
Information for Gig Workers

YWC & Gig Workers

The Young Workers Centre (YWC) supports workers aged 30 and under, and this includes workers in the gig economy. Whether its Uber, Airtasker, or any other company. Making sure workers are safe, protected and paid properly is what we do every day.

The Young Workers Centre can help you and your workmates when things go wrong at work.  We provide free & confidential legal advice, helping to recover lost wages and prevent unfair dismissal. But our work doesn’t stop there, we run campaigns that empower young workers to make meaningful change, especially in the gig economy. The stories of workers are core to what we do, if you'd like to share your experience in the gig economy, please fill out our typeform survey.

We provide information, support and legal advice to gig workers, which you can find here.

Gig workers normally work as independent contractors, providing a service to a company and being paid per job (or “gig”), which has historically been referred to as piece work, a type of payment which has been rarely used since the 1800s in most industries. As independent contractors workers supply their own equipment, uniforms and time to complete their duties as required. As independent contractors, gig workers are not entitled to the same rights as regular employees, a fact many companies use to exploit workers, through under payment, poor conditions or unsafe work practices.

Gig Workers often work in ride-share, food & service delivery, in-home aged care, cleaning & childcare industries.

This is opposed to the more standard form of employment found in most industries, whereby a worker is hired by a boss to work consistently for a company at a set wage, which may be an hourly rate (most common in casual work), or part of an annual salary. Workers in formal employment can be recognised by such things as an employment contract, the requirement to wear a uniform, less flexibility around rostering, and having equipment supplied by their employer. These workers are also entitled to further rights such as superannuation, paid leave and are covered by the National Employment Standards.

The State Government’s Gig Worker Support Service is an initiative to support Gig Workers by improving fairness and advice to workers in the sector. They can help to resolve disputes and offer interpreter services for workers with a language background other than English. You can visit their website or make an enquiry via this link or call 1800 000 478  

At the Young Workers Centre, we’ve spoken to many gig workers who overwhelmingly want fair improvements to their pay, safety, and job security. With the new Closing the Loopholes 2 Act coming into effect this August, Gig workers for digital platforms across Australia may have some positive workplace changes in store.

What’s changing?

From the 26th of August 2024, the Fair Work Commission will set new minimum standards and guidelines for gig workers. The Young Workers Centre believes this will deliver gig workers new rights at work, more in line with those of employees, and hopefully, much better conditions.

Gig workers will now also be able to dispute unfair deactivations by platforms through the Commission. This is instead of relying on the platforms’ existing deactivation processes, which we’ve heard can be slow, lack transparency, and without chance to appeal. Workers may also be able to apply for lost income due to unfair deactivation.

Organisations that represent gig workers (like unions) will be able to create collective agreements to provide even better conditions for gig workers than the minimum standards set by the commission. This is great news as it gives gig workers the opportunity to have their concerns addressed through the processes that all other workers are entitled to.

While we must wait until the Fair Work Commission sets the regulations and minimum standards for gig workers to know the specifics, the Young Workers Centre is available now to help young gig workers understand their rights and provide legal support for free. Call 1800 714 754 to get in touch.

Situations where workers are employed as independent contractors but expected to carry out the duties of a formal employee, where flexibility is limited and the worker does not have the right to negotiate their pay are known as sham contracting, which denies workers their rights and forces them into vulnerable positions. This type of contracting is highly illegal.

If you feel like you’ve been misrepresented as an independent contractor, and work under formal employment conditions, you can reach out to the Young Workers Centre for free & confidential legal advice here 

Working for a platform, such as Uber may mean work feels distant from official oversight, but these organisations still have responsibilities with regards to your safety. This means they are responsible for providing and maintaining a safe working environment for their employees and non-employee gig workers, as well as eliminating or reducing, risks and hazards, and notify WorkSafe of serious workplace incidents. 

You also have health and safety rights when visiting other workplaces, such as collecting an order from a restaurant, or entering a office building. These businesses have a responsibility to keep you safe whilst you’re on site, If you see or experience anything unsafe in these environments, you’re entitled to raise a complaint with the business, or inform WorkSafe. 

Included in Health and Safety are things like bullying and harassment. Verbal, physical or pyschological abuse are unacceptable in any work environment, and platforms have a responsibility to ensure their workers are safe from these hazards, and prevent any harm coming to gig workers. If a platform allows customers, passengers or other workers to bully, harass or intimidate a worker, they are entitled to reach out to WorkSafe, the Young Workers Centre, the Gig Workers Support Service or all three.

If you see something unsafe, experience a near-miss or an accident you can seek assistance from your union, or reach out to WorkSafe for further information. More information is available here

The Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee provides up to 38 hours of sick or carer's pay to Victorians in specific casual or contract jobs. Recently, this scheme has been expanded to include more jobs in the gig-worker sector, such as ride-share drivers.  

 Signing up to the scheme means that if you’re sick or unwell, and cant work, you can still be paid for the time you have off. This means you don’t have to choose between working sick, and not getting paid at all. Importantly, to access the scheme, you must be signed up before you get sick, so to ensure you’re ready, you can sign up now through this quick website here.

From time to time workers may find themselves in dispute with their platform over payments, account suspensions and safety issues, or other issues. Workers in these situations should firstly make efforts to record information related to disputes, such as photos, invoices and communications between themselves and the platform.  

Workers in dispute should seek advice from an organisation like the Young Workers Centre or the Victorian Gig Worker Support Service, who can help you make your case, and win back lost earnings or protect your rights as a gig-worker.  

Hubs have been set up as “lunchrooms” for gig workers, where people can go, eat lunch, use bathrooms and do light repairs on their equipment. They’re open most days between 2pm and 5pm at 227-229 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC, Australia.  

Workers in the gig economy face difficult challenges and legal obstacles to achieving fair working conditions, but they are not alone. Many gig workers have worked with their union, the Transport Workers Union, to win significant claims for industry wide reforms to improve the lives of gig workers.  You can find out more and join their fight by following this link here.