Robotization, digitalization and flexible working in the future
Technological progress is giving Dutch lawmakers a headache. Mr Koolmees, the Dutch Minister of Labour, is the man who awaits the task of preparing the Dutch labour market for the future and he will have to draft the necessary laws that take us in the right direction. Considering that the platform economy is continuously a ‘hot topic’ and judging by the many Artifical Intelligence initiatives, our lawmakers have unwantingly been forced to think about whether or not our current rules are still adequately serving our labour market and society.
Robots, are they already a threat to the labor market?
First: robots. Are they already to be considered a threat? Mr Ferdinand Grapperhaus, who is not just the Dutch Minister of Justice but was also a professor of employment law at the University of Maastricht, told media that he considers it a real possiblity that not too long from now we will live in a world where all employees are robots, which will have significant effects on Dutch employment laws. More and more Dutch newspapers write about having robots as colleagues, having nicknamed them ‘cobots’. The Financieel Dagblad wrote on September 18th, 2018 about an interview that they had with a robot who is currently employed as ‘conversation coach’. An inevitable consequence of robotization and digitalization is that the rules that were originally made for real humans will be scrapped. Although it is sure to become a reality, we are not there just yet. News articles about losing our jobs to robots – and the scale of the losses – are annoyingly contradictory. On the one hand, newspapers write about the loss of jobs we could have never imagined going away (‘Robots make people redundant’ (Trouw) and ‘Race against the robots’ (NRC)), on the other hand they write about jobs being ‘robotproof’(‘Robot to join bank personell as their colleague’ (FD)).
What does the future look like?
Whatever the future holds, robots cannot yet be considered a significant factor. The relevant question for this day and age is if the current employment laws (and therefore our tax laws) are still good enough for our employees. The Dutch Law for Work and Security (WWZ) has been under heavy scrutiny ever since coming into effect and is already about to undergo some significant changes with the coming into effect of the Law for a balanced labour market (Wab). The Law for deregulation of the assessment of labor relations (Wet DBA) also did not see much support. Technological advancements and digitalization play a serious role here: never before have we seen such a demand for flexible working in the Dutch labour market and never before have the differences between an independent contractor and an employee been so unclear. Both examples are a direct result of a growing digital world. The judicial power needs to wait and see what Minister Koolmees will do. Judges will and can not fix the current hiatus in our employment laws on their own accord: what became very clear in a case before the Amsterdam court where the judge was asked to rule on the matter of the Deliveroo-biker being either an employee or an independent contractor, was that the judge did not just choose Deliveroo’s side (the Deliveroo biker is to be considered an independent contractor, not an employee) but the court also instructed the Minister to think about whether or not the platformization of our economy is still compliant with our traditional views on someone being either an ‘employee’ or an ‘independent contractor’. In my opinion, a very clear sign by the Amsterdam judge for our lawmakers. We will have to wait and see if Minister Koolmees is factoring in digitalization while considering a new employment law framework and if any ideas in that regard will make it to suggested changes for our current laws.
For more information contact Pieter Bakker.