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Select Committee on the Gig Economy Report

5 June 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:05): I move:

That the report of the select committee be noted.

Before I go into the detail of this report, I want to acknowledge the work of the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos, who established this committee. She was Chair of the committee, and I was elected to take on the role of Chairperson after the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos's resignation from this place. I think it is worth reflecting on the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos's intentions when she established this committee back in 2022. She said:

The flexibility of the gig economy is often promoted as modernising and positive to both workers and businesses. In reality, the gig economy works by undercutting the traditional model of employment upon which many of our rules for worker protection are based.

The committee has recognised the work of the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos in the report, and we thank her for her contribution to the inquiry.

I think it is fair to say, in reflecting on some of the evidence that we heard, that gig work has been on the increase in South Australia in recent years. Gig work is defined as work where those undertaking this work do so on demand through digital apps, such as Uber, DoorDash or Menulog. Gig workers fall into a different category from other self-employed workers. Many of the protections that are provided to employees under workplace awards or health and safety laws are not valid for gig workers, who operate under online platforms that are not traditionally considered employers.

It is worth noting that the federal government has recently introduced legislation to close the loophole to protect these workers; however, our South Australian committee considered that there were some areas in which the state may introduce other measures to address remaining issues and provide additional protection to these workers.

One of the key concerns the committee heard was that gig workers often lack minimum employment conditions. There is an absence of workers compensation for these workers, they do not have access to paid leave, and there is no guaranteed minimum wage for the hours worked, no penalty rates and no allowances. It is concerning that, according to research from the McKell Institute, 45 per cent of gig workers are regularly earning less than the minimum wage.

The committee also heard about the practice of deplatforming, where gig workers are removed from the app due to a complaint being received. The Transport Workers' Union told the inquiry that in a normal employment situation you would have a formal recourse; however, that is not available to gig workers. I think that is concerning. We also heard evidence around health and safety concerns, with there being an absence of controls on the minimum hours worked and a lack of regulation of time of rest between long shifts.

While the flexibility of gig work has been attractive to some lifestyle situations, the committee heard that 81 per cent of gig workers were relying on that type of work to make ends meet and were working longer hours or working across multiple platforms during a 24-hour period to achieve financial stability. So whilst it may have suited people in terms of their lifestyle, in effect they were actually working much longer hours without access to some of the benefits that other workers have.

Some of the businesses that host these platforms told the committee that they are attempting to put protections in place. However, I submit that it is clear that we should not rely on ad hoc protections from these platforms and instead there is a strong case for industry regulation. The committee therefore recommended developing accountability standards for platforms in South Australia to give them better protections for risk management, health and safety measures, PPE and minimum pay and conditions.

Not only does this sector impact on the workers involved but also on our state economy across the board. One of the issues that was brought to the committee's attention is the fact that these platforms are not subject to payroll tax as they are not considered to be employer groups. This results in lost revenue for the state, especially given some of these platforms, such as Uber, are replacing services that offer more traditional forms of employment. I guess one example is the impact on the taxi industry.

The committee therefore recommends that the state government investigate amendments to payroll tax systems to consider applying the same obligations to digital platforms so that these digital platforms are subject to the same taxation requirements as those who employ workers directly. There was a concern that payroll tax being applied on businesses that employ people in a direct way was actually penalising those businesses that are in effect doing the right thing.

I will summarise the key recommendations. The first recommendation was that the government review legislation and make changes necessary to ensure consistency with the commonwealth's definition of employee-like workers. The second was that we call on the state government to consider developing accountability standards for platforms operating in South Australia. That would include procedures for identifying and addressing risks for gig workers, workplace health and safety standards, provision of PPE and appropriate training and induction programs for delivery drivers, information being provided to gig workers on the terms and conditions of their work relationship, regular reporting on workplace data and, of course, minimum pay and conditions.

The third recommendation called on the government to develop strategies to ensure international students and migrant workers receive consistent information on their rights at work and different employee relationships and arrangements. The fourth recommendation called on the government to investigate the potential to expand the workers compensation scheme to ensure access by gig economy workers.

The fifth recommendation called on the government to investigate establishing a portable leave entitlement scheme for gig workers. The sixth recommendation called on the government to review occupational health and safety laws to give protection to gig workers. The seventh recommendation called on the government to consider amendments to state procurement policies to prioritise local companies that directly employ workers or meet minimum standards for gig workers. We did receive some evidence in that regard that the government as an organisation that has significant buying power could use that more effectively to incentivise some of the businesses that are doing the right thing.

The eighth recommendation called on the government to consider adopting the approach and features of the Queensland government's state-based industrial relations system for jurisdiction over non-employees, with the power to make binding determinations, set enforceable standards and resolve disputes, noting that the South Australian Employment Tribunal appears well suited to this role.

The ninth and final recommendation called on the government to investigate amendments to payroll tax systems to consider applying the same obligations to digital platforms as to businesses that directly employ workers.

In concluding, I want to acknowledge the work of the members of the committee: the Hon Reggie Martin, the Hon. Mira El Dannawi, who replaced the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos, the Hon. Ben Hood and the Hon. Dennis Hood. It was a committee that included a broad cross-section of the parliament, and it is certainly my hope that the government will review the recommendations and provide a response in due course.

I also acknowledge the work of the secretariat for the committee, Emma Johnston, who put in a lot of work to ensure that we have a thorough report that is available for the government's consideration. With that, I conclude my remarks.