How does workers' compensation play out in the gig economy?

Published 11 Sep 2018

The gig economy continues to rise in Australia. This trend means that more people are taking on freelance, temporary or contract jobs instead of traditional employment positions.

With companies like Uber, Airtasker and Deliveroo emerging, legislators are looking into how to better protect this growing piece of the workforce. These individual workers don't currently have workers' compensation protection in place, among other securities.

Here is a brief look at current discussions and whether anything will be done to protect gig economy workers in the coming years.

Current legislation

Being a contract worker or freelancer has many perks. You can set your own schedule, take on projects at your discretion and work from anywhere. But there are certain disadvantages to this type of work arrangement. These include taking on your own risk (rather than a company taking responsibility for you) and missing out on benefits like insurance and paid leave.

Laws under the Commonwealth Fair Work Act in Australia could apply to some contractors if certain criteria are met, but more often gig economy workers are not considered employees and are thus not covered by workers' compensation protections.

This means that if a freelance bike messenger gets hit by a car, for example, they could still receive compensation from the driver's CTP insurance, but the company they are working for would not be able to provide any cover for injuries sustained while on the job.

Changes may be coming in the future

Laws may be in the works to better protect gig economy workers, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The NSW Labor Party has announced plans to try to revisit laws in order for them to better protect the freelancers that work on a task-by-task basis, especially within the emerging online platforms.

The changes could implement legal rights for these workers that include a minimum pay and safe working conditions requirements. The revamped laws would also provide them with entitlements such as super contributions, holidays, sick days and a legal entitlement to workers' compensation if injured while providing services.

These laws would bridge at least part of the gap between what it means to be an employee versus a contractor under the current law.

If you have questions about your workers' compensation rights, or believe you are eligible to make a claim, our experienced lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers are available to assist you. Get in touch with our team to discuss your options with a free in-person or phone consultation.