'New forms' of employment: Good or bad?

Employment MEPs discuss about merits and demerits of emerging home-based, casual, voucher-based, and employee sharing work schemes. 

By Hendrik Meerkamp

21 Nov 2014

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On November 20, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs met for a presentation by the Irene Mandl from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND) on a project on “New forms of employment relationships”. Please find a summary below.

Irene Mandi, research manager at EUROFOUND, delivered a presentation on research carried out by EUROFOUND in the framework of a project on ‘New forms of employment’. In her presentation, she focused on the characteristics as well as on the merits and drawbacks of four such new forms of employment:

  • Employee sharing work: a form of cooperative human resource management whereby a group of employers jointly hires (a group of) workers for whom the individual firms could not provide sufficient workload;
  • Casual work: a type of work where the employment is not stable and continuous, and the employer is not obliged to regularly provide the worker with work but has the flexibility to call them in on demand;
  • Voucher-based work: a kind of work where an employer acquires a voucher from a third party (generally a government authority) to be used, instead of cash, as payment to a worker providing a service;
  • ICT-based, mobile work: work arrangements carried out at least partly, but regularly, outside the main office, be it the employer’s premises or a customised home office, using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for online connection to shared company computer systems.

Note that the full presentation which outlines the respective merits and drawbacks of these forms of employment is available here and that, moreover, further information can be accessed here in a concise briefing note by EUROFOUND.

Ms Mandl concluded that new forms of employment are typically driven by the need for greater flexibility – either from the side of the employer, from the side of the employee, or from both sides – and that not everything is negative about them per se. While saying that some types of new employment offer mutually beneficial win-win situations for both the employer and the employee, she stressed that problems may arise when especially when workers are forced into fragmented and/or time-wise uncontrolled work patterns and/or are in practice denied of essential social and work-related securities.

She explained that the new forms of employment referred to above have, through the changes they tend to induce with regards to the place of work, working time and working patterns, an inherent potential to change the labour market and that in some circumstances interventions may therefore be necessary. According to Ms Mandl, this not only refers to certain types of new forms of employment that threaten to go to the detriment of workers (the establishment of safety nets and the creation of favourable framework conditions might be necessary here, she said) but also to positively view new forms of employment (public incentives as well as awareness-raising campaigns so as to enable further penetrations of certain beneficial new forms of employment into the labour markets might be desirable, she declared).

Jutta Steinruck (S&D, DE) thanked Ms Mandl for her update, saying that “it is important for us to understand how the labour market is changing.” She elaborated that it must be ensured that detriments for worker rights induced by any new forms of employment must be addressed, giving zero-hour contracts as an example, and stressed that there should be an institutionalised exchange of views and of best practices in order to ensure negative outcomes for workers as a result of the emergence of new forms of employment.

She then asked how employee-sharing works and is set up in practice.

Georges Bach (EPP, LU) agreed that the presentation was very useful. However, he also wanted know if Ms Mandl can say more about which forms of new employment typically occur in which sectors.

Irene Mandl said that she agrees with Ms Steinruck that there should be an institutionalised exchange of views and of best practices on the emergence of new forms of employment and on possible interventions in this field especially when specific new forms of employment are initially restricted to one or a few Member States only and may pose a threat to workers.

On Ms Steinruck’s question on the operational aspects of employee sharing, Ms Mandl explained that it works in practice as follows:

  • a group of employers jointly hires (a group of) workers for whom the individual firms could not provide sufficient workload; and that
  • the employers then form a separate legal entity that becomes the legal employer of the workers, giving them stability and a single contact point for contractual issues;
  • the structure is of this type of new employment is similar to temporary agency work, with the difference that he workers are exclusively assigned to the member company and that the sending employer does not aim to make a profit out of the employee sharing.


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