The Labour Law Classification of Digital Platform Work: Disruption of the Labour Law Paradigm?

Viktoria Engelbreth Allerslev Kristensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


With the growth of digitalization new employment models have emerged, but alongside their benefits to society, they pose new legal challenges, specifically regarding the workers employment status and the coverage of labour law.
This thesis examines to what extent digital labour platforms and their platform workers are covered by Danish labour law, and whether this is the most efficient for society when viewed from a risk-perspective. To illustrate and specify this situation, this thesis makes use of a case-company, Wolt.
The legal analysis seeks to examine the need for labour law and when a relationship is covered by this. The determining factor is a question of whether the worker is an employee, and if not, the relationship is as a main rule, not covered by the Danish labour law, as the worker is an independent contractor. There is no universal definition of an employee, however five practical criteria can be deduced from legislation and literature and are deemed fit to determine employment status. These criteria are thus applied to the case of the thesis. They show that though some criteria give evidence of possible employment-like status, others point in the opposite direction and neither seem to fit the digital labour work correctly. Thus, the employment status is ambiguous. This ambiguity is rooted in the freedom and unattachment of the relationship, as well as the subordination of the platform and the obligation of workers to perform personally.
The economic analysis seeks to deduce the consequences for the societal welfare, if the relationship between the digital labour platform and its platform workers, are covered by Danish labour law. The analysis uses examples of allocation of income risk, which seems to be a main aim of labour law. Principal-agent theory and risk theory is applied in order to deduce and understand the underlying mechanisms in the relationships and deduce the internal consequences of applying labour regulation and hereby ultimately deduce the new contractual equilibrium and the consequences for the societal welfare. It is found, that both classifications (with and without labour law) result in equilibria that can be improved. Additionally, it is found that some aspects of labour law are beneficial while others are harmful to the equilibria.
Finally, the integrated analysis concludes that it would be more efficient for society to create a third classification, with a specially modified set of rules, containing some but not all labour law and perhaps some new rules, specifically made for this third group. Suggestion on how the legislator should approach this new third group are offered, both in relation to existing national law, as well as the EU context it has to abide by.
Thus, it is found, that a new paradigm on how to view contracts would be more efficient and would better accommodate work offered through a digital labour platform. As such, it would be possible to reach their full potential, without this paradigm necessarily damaging existing forms.

EducationsMSc in Commercial Law, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages82