Singapore accepts all 12 recommendations for the protection of platform workers

Singapore accepts all 12 recommendations for the protection of platform workers

The nation is geared to implement the recommendations in a progressive manner, earliest from the later part of 2024.

Singapore's Government has accepted all 12 recommendations proposed by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers led by Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, and Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Dr Koh Poh Koon.

Having consulted extensively during its course of work, the 12 recommendations by the committee tackle three areas of concern for the protection of platform workers:

  1. Ensuring adequate financial protection in case of work injury,
  2. Improving housing and retirement adequacy, and
  3. Enhancing representation.

Moving forward, the Government will continue to work with platform workers and platform companies to implement the recommendations in a progressive manner, earliest from the later part of 2024. In line with the accepted recommendations, changes to legislation will need to be made. The Government will also exercise flexibility and adjust the implementation timeline if needed, depending on the economic situation.

For easier understanding, the term 'platform workers' refers to delivery workers, private-hire car drivers and taxi drivers who use online platforms to match them with demand for their delivery and point-to-point transport services, but who are not employees of the companies operating these platforms. Presently, they are known as self-employed persons (SEPs). 

The recommendations came about as the Ministers noted many platform workers are in a precarious position. "They generally have modest incomes with limited prospect of wage progression. They are also exposed to significant risks due to the amount of time spent on the roads. Furthermore, many platform workers are subject to control over the jobs they receive and accept, as well as the fees for their services.

"Hence, there is a strong case to mandate that certain basic protections be provided for them."

The 12 recommendations

1. Platform workers should not be classified as employees.

This is because, per the Committee, platform workers enjoy more flexibility compared to employees, and that this flexibility is a key feature of platform work.

2. Require platform companies that exert a significant level of management control over platform workers to provide them with certain basic protections.

Platform workers experience reduced autonomy and flexibility compared to typical SEPs if subject to a significant level of management control by platform companies, which exert such control to ensure they can consistently deliver matching efficiency, which is a key part of such companies' value. The report explains factors that are pertinent in assessing whether a company exerts a significant level of management control, such as data-driven algorithmic matching of demand and supply of services.

Ensuring adequate financial protection for platform workers in case of work injury

3. Require platform companies to provide the same scope and level of work injury compensation as employees’ entitlement under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).

Some platform companies, per the report, voluntarily provide platform workers with compensation for work injuries, such as through personal accident insurance. However, coverage is uneven across companies and at lower levels than what employees are entitled to under WICA. This recommendation has been made "given that life and health are equally important to all workers independent of the type of work done".

4. Require platform companies for which a platform worker was working at the point of injury to take responsibility for compensation, based on the worker’s total earnings from the platform sector in which the injury was sustained.

In making this recommendation, the Committee engaged insurers to confirm that the premiums charged to platform companies will be proportionate to the total earnings that they pay out to their platform workers. The insurers also confirmed that compensating for the platform worker’s total income loss across such companies fairly accounts for varying levels of risk exposure by platform companies from an actuarial perspective.

5. Determine sector-specific definitions of when a platform worker is considered “at work”.

As platform workers do not have fixed working hours or locations, it is important to establish a common understanding on when such a worker is 'at work', to assess their eligibility for work injury compensation. As such, specific definitions will account for differences in the nature of work between the ride-hail, food delivery and goods delivery platform sectors. 

6. Retain the strengths of the current WICA regime, including the provision of work injury compensation insurance through the existing open and competitive insurance market.

Such a model would facilitate sustainable premiums based on claims history and allow platform companies the flexibility to choose their preferred insurers. It would account for such companies’ relative risks across the sector, as companies with better safety records would likely pay lower premiums.

Improving housing and retirement adequacy of platform workers

7. Align CPF contribution rates of platform companies and platform workers with that of employers and employees respectively; required for platform workers who are aged below 30 in the first year of implementation.

This recommendation comes as the Committee believes that platform workers should be able to set aside the same level of CPF savings for housing and retirement as employees with similar earnings. The two groups are likely to have similar needs, in areas such as housing obligations.

8. Allow older cohorts of platform workers who are aged 30 and above in the first year of implementation to opt in to the full CPF contribution regime.

Platform workers are a heterogenous group with different needs. It is important to preserve flexibility and choice for older workers, as some may already have plans for retirement or have paid off their housing loans. Nonetheless, older workers should be given the choice to benefit from additional CPF contributions. 

9. Require platform companies to collect platform workers’ CPF contributions to help workers make timely contributions.

This, the report cited, will help platform workers make regular contributions more conveniently.

10. Phase in the increased CPF contributions over five years, unless major economic disruption warrants a longer timeline. To ease the impact, the Government may wish to consider providing support for platform workers and the form this should take.

The Committee recognises that the implementation of the recommendations would result in significant cost increases for platform companies, thus this recommendation. It also finds that platform workers will likely see higher total earnings due to additional CPF contributions, their take-home pay may drop, thus the message to the Government to consider providing some form of support.

Enhancing representation for platform workers

11. Give platform workers the right to seek formal representation through a new representation framework designed for platform workers.

While NTUC has formed associations of platform workers, these associations do not have the legal mandate to bargain collectively, thus the Committee made this recommendation, which will require new legislation to be enacted.

12. Set up a Tripartite Workgroup on Representation for Platform Workers (TWG) to co-create the new representation framework.

This recommendation was made earlier, as the Committee found it is important for key stakeholders – platform workers, existing platform worker associations, platform companies, and the Government – to be closely involved in co creating the framework, to ensure that there is shared ownership and there is a balanced relationship between the platform workers and platform companies as the ecosystem evolves. This is in keeping with the spirit of the tripartite approach in Singapore.

The TWG was recently convened in August 2022 and its deliberations are ongoing.

All images/ Singapore Ministry of Manpower Facebook

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