Spain, in search of the ‘Amazon law’ for new work environments

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January 2, 2018

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Digital business models and collaborative economy platforms require revising labor regulations as new formulas and work relationships of the 21st century are configured.

Only announced and not yet in effect in Spain, but it is already an advanced labor revolution that has been experienced in other parts of the world and that will be a challenge for legislators. Amazon intends to launch its Flex program, a kind of Uber in the messaging sector, which already works in the United States and where a user can become a delivery man for the distribution giant by the hour.

“The digital economy is disruptive in itself and is such an attractive reality that it is unstoppable and that it is imposed, the new model of Amazon is channeled into this so-called collaborative economy, which replaces the traditional model of own assets with digital platforms”, according to Rafael Chelala, lawyer, and professor at Deusto Business School.

But there are experts who go further and speak, even, of “platformization of labor relations.” A new term used by Raúl Rojas, partner of Ecija, for whom “these new disruptive business models are typical of the widespread use of new technologies and the continuous process of digital transformation that we are experiencing at all levels, leading to what many authors have called “the industry 4.0”. In fact, the case of Amazon is just one more example that confirms a growing trend in which online commerce and collaborative economy platforms converge.

It is evident that we are facing a new scenario, but what is the real scope of this paradigm shift? For the Deusto professor, most of these models “move away from the traditional labor relationship”. Its strong point is flexibility, allowing people to “reconcile and choose the time they want to work”. In the same line, Ricardo Pérez, CEO of Innovation Coach and professor of digital innovation and information systems at IE Business School, speaks. In his opinion, “we are at a key moment for the definition of this type of economy, which Americans call gig economy: jumping from one job to another and not having an ongoing relationship with a single company.”

Legal risks

For this expert, it is an opportunity when talking about qualified work, but warning of the risk for other jobs: “The bad thing is that if we go to the other extreme we see how this type of relationship can be lent to abuse and excess of power of the platforms versus the individual suppliers.”

Several questions arise here: are these jobs where each professional is their own boss? So, are you a self-employed or self-employed worker? What are your rights? And who is responsible for the activity of the consumer?

It is necessary to take into account that it is based on the “figure of the autonomous worker”, a point that is already regulated in legal systems, as well as the role of companies or platforms, which “will impose requirements within the existing legal framework”, says Rafael Chelala.

However, Raúl Rojas is more skeptical and believes that “the law is always behind reality, and even more so when we talk about adapting to changes so profound that technological disruption is causing labor relations, transforming even the concept classic of independent worker.” There is more to mention, for example, the legal conflicts faced by companies such as Uber or Deliveroo in many countries, including Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and even in Latin America.

The lawyer of Ecija remembers that there are countries that have already begun to take into account these aspects of their legislation, although timidly. This refers, for example, to France, which in its latest labor reform regulated the right to digital disconnection. Even so, in his opinion, “we are only before the dawn of the need for major comprehensive regulatory reforms that regulate labor regulations in the new digital environments.”

“The legal framework does not sufficiently regulate the new figures of the worker in digital environments”, insists Raúl Rojas. As an example, in Spain there is only one legal precept that regulates the figure of teleworking (in Article 13 of the Workers’ Statute), “and it does so in a very generalist manner”, while there is no reference to flexible days when it comes to teleworking for a demand that changes a lot or with important peaks of activity (such as that of collaborative platforms), or issues such as the right of employees to digital disconnection. It is true that some companies have taken steps in this direction but in an internal and timely manner. For example, Axa has become the first company in Spain to include in its agreement the right of its workers not to respond to mobile phones outside of their working hours.

Internal rules

But beyond the legislative reforms that are adopted, all the experts agree that the work environments are transforming quickly and that will imply the need to review the internal rules. “Before it was going to the offices and a schedule was imposed because the means to work were there, this has changed and every time more flexibility is allowed with a face-to-face requirement only when it is really necessary,” explains Chelala, of Deusto Business School.

In his opinion, “production is imposed against the schedule”, and that is a challenge that companies are facing. For example, thanks to these platforms, work access is provided to students in their free time, without forgetting deeper transformations, such as new conciliation measures and even the ecological impact of business activities. Raúl Rojas is blunt: “The traditional need for labor in exchange for a stagnant day and a fixed salary, regardless of the real need or the worker’s own contribution, is changing.”

The above article was written and published in Spanish and has been translated into English. Click here to read the original article.

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Simon Baker is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Online Marketplaces and Property Portal Watch. Involved with property portals for 15 years, he’s a well-recognized expert and industry consultant.
As former CEO/MD of the REA Group for 8 years, Simon led the group to its current market-leading position. When he joined REA Group in 2001, it had $4m in revenues, $6m in losses and an $8m market cap.
By 2008, the company presided over $155m in revenues, $35m in EBITDA and enjoyed a peak market cap of $1b. Simon is currently Chairman of the Mitula Group and Real Estate Investar and a serial portal founder and, investor.