The future of the work contract is Terms of Use

Digital transformation is not only disrupting the way we work, it’s also transforming the employment framework. Work and work contract, for instance, will never be the same and some predict that such concepts are going to die or be reserved for some skilled lucky profiles.

So let’s talk about a very popular topic : the uberization of work. Trendy topic but abused workd. The uberization of work is about many things at the same time ;

• the scarcity of paid employment

• the scarcity of work (even if I consider that this point is rather about watsonization than uberization)

• the deterioration of the employer/employee relationship, the employee becoming a replaceable commodity, a kind of necessary evil without any right nor protection.

If an Uber is a success from a customer perspective and had helped many drivers to get some work, start their company and even find their place in the society, we should also hear the voices of the disappointed ones. Of all drivers that see their situation degrading, are forced to accept changes in their relationship with uber, can be excluded from the program without any notification or explanation, are denied to form unions and even to exercise their rights. The dark side of flexible work that should make us understand that what is often designed with nice names like collaboration or sharing economy (I still can’t see where sharing and collaboration are in this business) is nothing more than a on demand economy.

It’s not about freelancing, it’s about platforms

An easy response would be to say that it’s nothing but logical. We’re entering a freelancing economy and freelances are less protected than employees. They don’t have a work contract with an employer but a service contrat with a client with everything it implies. The social side, benefits insurances etc… are his own problems and the way the contract is performed and can be stopped are not negotiated but imposed by the most powerful contractor. So not the driver.

A downgraded version of the work contract, perfectly fitting in tomorrow’s world, favoring activity and flexibility over security over time. Anyway, that’s the way things are going to be, it gives people work, whatever the work and work conditions.

Like it or not : it’s unavoidable and that’s least bad response to the upcoming world. But that’s not what is going to happen : the future will look even weirder.

Towards the “platformization” of work

The main thing about the upcoming economy is not freelancing but the fact it’s a platform economy. So I’d rather say platformization than uberization.

A platform allows a business, Uber or other, to connect workers and end customers at scale and at zero marginal cost. There’s not really a contract between the company operating the platform, the customer and the worker, just the acceptation of Terms of Use. Practically speaking there are contracts, often implicits, but everything about the relationship between the operator and the workers is in the Terms Of Use.

Terms of Use are the future of the Work Contract

It’s easier to unilaterally change Terms of Use than a contract. One can add any clause like a right waiver and not accepting the change puts the worker out of the system. The worker is a user of the platform, he must accept the terms of use before working. Terms of Use are the barrier at entry that allow to have “normal” contracts for operations, knowing that le least acceptable and questionable terms won’t be in the contract but in the terms of use.

What’s good with Terms Of Use is that one can put in terms that would never be acceptable in a work contract or any contract. Workers are free to use the platform or not but if they do they need to comply with the terms of use. They’re not employees, not contractors, just users.

In the economy of platform, don’t waste your time thinking about the future of the work contract : it’s the platform’s Terms of Use.

Food for thought for CHROs…

Image Credit : work contract by GoShiva via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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