How Brazil discusses new laws for platform work

How is Brazil discussing the regulation of work on digital platforms? Discover FGV studies that analyze bills on the topic.

Studies by FGV Direito SP show what is being debated in gig economy regulation projects

In recent years, many Brazilians have started to work in a different way. In the gig economy, people work on demand, sometimes for more than one company, and are paid according to their activity.

Depending on digital platforms (such as transport or meal and shopping delivery apps) gain relevance in the Brazilian economy, there is also a need to update the country's legislation to this new reality.

Many proposals for change have been evaluated by Congress: 128 bills on regulating work on digital platforms were presented between 2015 and 2021, according to a research on the gig economy carried out by the Innovation Teaching and Research Center (CEPI) of the São Paulo Law School of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV Direito SP).

The CEPI survey shows that, in 2020 alone, 71 bills were created — compared to 23 in 2019. “It is a recent debate, and the discussions are heated. There was a large increase in the number of bills on the topic due to the pandemic”, says Ana Paula Camelo, project leader at CEPI. “Isolation at home highlighted the work of delivery people and drivers. This changed the discussion about their working conditions.”

To focus on the most recent proposals, CEPI made a selection of the 40 bills that deal with the topic in a pertinent way and were presented in Congress throughout 2020 and published this analysis in a thematic briefing carried out with support from iFood.

In the document, the researchers show that some proposals sought to meet new demands generated by the Covid-19 pandemic (in health, hygiene and time off work). The majority, however, proposed regulating work on digital platforms in a more comprehensive way: 70% of the projects dealt with working conditions, 70% provided for social benefits and 33% dealt with workers' remuneration.

The most discussed issues in 2020 were health and safety (present in 22 projects), supply of materials for work (20 projects) and rules on misfortunes, such as illness, damage, theft or loss of the vehicle used for work (19 projects) .

The least discussed topics were retirement (1 project), maternity leave (1 project) or various leaves (2 projects), compensation (2 projects) and health benefits (3 projects). “The 2020 projects deal with problems related to the pandemic that required immediate responses. But issues like retirement and maternity leave will have an impact in the future, so we need to prepare for them now. You cannot leave such sensitive topics until later”, says Ana Paula.

Deliverers in focus

At the second thematic briefing part of the series on work in the gig economy, CEPI researchers carried out a more comprehensive analysis of 114 bills presented between 2010 and 2020. As a result, they found that most of the projects (49%) were aimed at drivers, while 24% covered drivers and delivery men, 16% referred only to delivery men and 10% dealt with work through applications in general.

They also identified three waves: the first, starting in 2015, is that of bills on paid private passenger transport (which cools down in 2018, with the approval of the law that regulates the activity).

In the second wave (2019-2020), the first projects that deal exclusively with delivery drivers or that also cover this activity begin to emerge — and, at the same time, the volume of projects exclusively about drivers increases.

The third wave coincides with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and increases the scope of the texts, which refer more frequently to drivers, delivery people and other app workers and also include more topics, such as work accidents, income, health and platform governance.

In the third wave, all categories are considered when thinking about social rights and benefits — the second wave projects specifically regulated the duties of users and service providers to ensure greater safety against violence or sought to reduce the cost of the activity for drivers.

“There is a very large diversity of professionals from other areas of the economy who are not being considered in this debate”, comments Ana Paula. “The challenge remains to understand this diversity and give visibility to issues related to them and understand if there are rights that are common and if there is a need for specific regulations.”

Indefinite concepts

CEPI's analysis of the bills raises a point of attention: most of them do not provide a clear definition of the concept of digital platform and the criteria that characterize the employment relationship, an essential element for the application of the rights that are under debate .

“Defining what the gig economy is is really a challenge. It is important to understand the diversity of this ecosystem so that regulation is connected with reality and offers legal security to companies and workers”, considers Ana Paula.

We have reached 2022, therefore, with a law that will be in force for as long as the public health emergency resulting from the coronavirus continues, which brings protection to delivery people who provide services through applications, and with many bills in the initial stages of processing.

“We certainly have a path to seek legal certainty. Our regulations must reflect the diversity of people, perspectives and possibilities on digital platforms”, says Ana Paula. “There is no single design: the more we map the possibilities, the better combinations can be made to reach a healthy balance of rights.”

Read more:

Social Security: understand what it is and how it works in Brazil

New rules for new work relationships

Law 14,297/22: how the new measures protect delivery people

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