Social Security For Gig Workers: Supreme Court Seeks Government’s Response
The Supreme Court of India on Monday agreed to hear a petition seeking to secure social security benefits for workers of app-based platforms such as Zomato, Swiggy, Ola and Uber.
The central government has already enacted The Code on Social Security, 2020, as part of the new labour laws. The code aims to extend social security benefits to gig workers but is yet to be implemented since the rules haven't been finalised as yet.
The code is demonstrative of the fact that the legislature intends to provide such workers with social security benefits. But the app-based workers, the petition said, cannot be expected to wait indefinitely to receive the statutory benefits they are entitled to receive as of today under existing laws.
Absence of any social security benefit violates the workers' fundamental rights including the right to work and livelihood. The petitioners have asked the court to:
Recognise gig workers as ‘’workman’’ which will enable them access rights flowing from various legislations on maternity benefits, provident fund, employee insurance, among others.
Include gig workers in the definition of ‘’unorganised workers’’ under Unorganised Workers Social Welfare Security Act, 2008, and enabling them to register, avail social security benefits under the act.
Such gig-workers are in an employee-employer relationship with the platforms. The companies operating the apps exercise complete supervision and control over their work. And that the contracts they enter into with the workers are only to disguise the nature of the relationship, the petition filed by Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, said.
For these reasons, gig workers must be covered under the definition of ‘’workman’’ for benefits under Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948; Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; and Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
The petitioners further go on to argue that the failure of the government to register them as ‘’unorganised workers’’ and provide them social security benefits under the current laws violates the right to work and livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The denial of social security benefits to the said workers also results in their exploitation through forced labour within the meaning of Article 23, said the petition.
The petition came up before the bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai. The bench issued notice on the petition asking for the response to be filed within four weeks.
(Corrects an earlier version that misstated the year of Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.)