Worldwide: Uberization Of The Labor Market

Last Updated: 25 November 2015
Article by Stefan Nerinckx

Social media and other new technologies are changing the way professional services are delivered. Individuals can make a living by renting out their homes via Airbnb or by offering rides for pay in their personal cars via Uber. Others are combining these jobs with their full-time day job.

Needless to say, our existing employment and business models are under pressure.

Recently, the Belgian Secretary of State against Fraud stated that all Uber drivers are to be considered as self-employed workers according to Belgian legislation.

A few weeks before, the Labor Commissioner of the State of California came to the opposite conclusion: in California, Uber drivers are considered (salaried) employees (Case n° 11-46739 EK of June 3, 2015).

Uber organizes its services similarly in the US and in Belgium: it provides the technological platform to connect drivers and passengers.

In developing its arguments, Uber defended itself by stating that they only supply a smartphone application which facilitates transactions between passengers and drivers. The smartphone is provided by Uber, unless the driver has his or her own.

To be able to use the platform, a contract is signed between the driver and Uber, imposing a number of strict conditions on the driver.

The California Labor Commissioner concluded that Uber drivers are to be considered (salaried) employees as:

  • The drivers' work is an integral part of Uber's regular business;
  • Uber holds a pervasive control over every aspect of the drivers' work;
  • No managerial skills are involved that could affect profit or loss;
  • Apart from the car, there was no investment in the business.

Interesting to note is that the Labor Commissioner assimilates the activities of the Uber technological platform with the transport of individuals (drivers using the platform). One could assume that Uber's primary (and only) activity is making available its technological platform. The second interesting conclusion is that a company cannot outsource its main activity to self-employed individuals.

Classification of the nature of the employment relationship in Belgium

In Belgium, the principle is that the parties freely choose whether their labor relationship is an employment agreement or a self-employed cooperation agreement. However, the parties' choice may not be contrary to the actual exercise of the labor relationship.

Anyone who works under the authority of the other party, the employer, is an employee. A self-employed person performs his or her professional activities outside any link of subordination.

The Program Law of December 27, 2006 provides four general criteria to assess the existence of a link of subordination:

  • The will of the parties as this appears from their agreement;
  • The freedom to schedule working time is indicative of an absence of a link of subordination;
  • The freedom to plan the work is indicative of an absence of a link of subordination;
  • The possibility of exercising hierarchical supervision is indicative of the existence of a link of subordination.

Refutable presumption of employment or self-employment in risk sectors

The Law of August 25, 2012 introduced a refutable presumption of employment or self-employment in the building (for works on fixed property), security, transport and cleaning sectors. The presumption can be refuted by all legal means.

The taxi sector established additional criteria to determine whether someone is to be recognized as self-employed or an employee (Royal Decree of October  23, 2013 – section 140.02). If it appears that more than half of the criteria provided above, which are indicative of economic dependence, have been met, the labor relationship is (refutably) presumed to be an employment agreement.

Finally, the Program Law of December 27, 2006 (adapted by the Law of August 25, 2012) also provided for the establishment of a committee to regulate the labor relationship.

It is possible for the persons involved in the labor relationship to request the committee to rule on the nature of the labor relationship. This is the so-called social ruling.

All self-employed? – recent Belgian case law

Finally, I would like to make reference to recent case law. In my opinion, the Labor Court of Appeal of Brussels takes a rather remarkable position in applying the abovementioned criteria. The first one (Labor Court of Appeal of Brussels, September 9, 2014) concerns a consultant in agriculture who exercised his activities in an employee-employer relationship; the employee is terminated and a self-employed contract for a determined duration is concluded to exercise the same functions. The contract is not extended, and the consultant claims the existence of an employment contract. The court decided the structure was not in contradiction with a self-employed relationship as:

  • It is irrelevant whether the same activities were previously exercised as a salaried worker;
  • It is irrelevant whether one can or cannot be replaced;
  • It is irrelevant whether a fixed amount is being charged;
  • Furthermore, the contractor was not obliged to take on the assignment, the principal was not obliged to provide the contractor continuously with work, and there was only a limited control over the activities performed.

The second case (Labor Court of Appeal of Brussels, December 9, 2014) concerned the execution of a self-employed contract for the activities of an Operations Manager. Here, the court decided there was no employee relationship as:

  • The parties decided to have a self-employed relationship;
  • There was no limitation as to when the services were performed (no strict schedule or obligation to work in certain moments), although holidays and times the manager was available had to be communicated;
  • The possibility for the principal to sanction the service provider following a control is not in contradiction to a self-employed status.

What is next?

In the evaluation of the status of employee vs. self-employed worker, both Belgium and the United States have similar criteria. However, an interesting conclusion of the California Labor Commissioner is the assimilation of the activities of the Uber technological platform with the transport of individuals (drivers using the platform). Would the same principle apply to other platforms such as Airbnb? The factual elements will have to be analyzed, but can it be envisaged that landlords are to be considered employees of Airbnb?

Another conclusion brought forward by the California Labor Commission is that a company cannot outsource its main activity (in the Uber case, by assimilating the transport of individuals); if it does that, the workers performing that main activity must be considered employees of the company.

The California Labor Commission ruled Uber drivers are to be considered employees. In Belgium, however, the Secretary of State stated that Uber drivers are to be considered as self-employed, based on the above factual organization of the Uber relationship and the sector requirements.

Doesn't this demonstrate that the employment status itself is under pressure and our legislation is not adapted to these new formats, including scenarios where companies provide only a technological platform? A recent issue of The Economist reported that the standard company structure is probably outdated and the "company has to be reinvented". The present young generation tends to 'ownership' in which the business is composed of a small team (of owners) who nonetheless have a global reach because of new technologies. Maybe it is time to review the social structures we have in place, such as salaried employee vs. self-employed, and consider an (additional) hybrid status which combines reasonable social coverage with the flexibility those 'new' businesses require. Food for thought! 

Previously published on

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.