#EU4FairWork – End bogus self-employment!

21 Sep 2020

Today marks the beginning of the European Commission’s Week of Action to tackle undeclared work. The ETF, as an observer of the Platform tackling undeclared work, is taking part by shedding light on the growing issue in various transport sectors – bogus self-employment. Bogus self-employment directly impacts the working conditions and wellbeing of transport workers.

For the ETF, concrete efforts towards ending this harmful practice must be mobilized.

“No one should ever have to choose between making a living and their health!”

ETF’s General Secretary, Livia Spera, speaks against on bogus self-employment:


What is bogus self-employment?

Most people are familiar with self-employment – being your own boss, providing services for other individuals or companies, being in charge of your own work and schedule. In a way, the self-employed workers are considered to be small companies, which means they have access to a very different set of rights in comparison to employees. Self-employment is, even when freely chosen by the self-employed person, often considered a precarious form of employment. Despite differences in various national legislations, self-employed workers generally have limited access to workers’ rights and social security. It is therefore especially problematic when workers are forced into this form of work when their work has characteristics of employment, such as:

  • Working under supervision and following instructions of an employer;
  • Working at the premises of an employer, during a set working time that they cannot influence;
  • Working with equipment provided by an employer;
  • Working for a single employer for an extended period, etc.

When self-employment is something that employers impose on workers, we enter into the field of bogus self-employment.

Forcing workers into bogus self-employment is one of the instruments employers have been using around Europe for years to avoid taking responsibility for their workers, to avoid paying wages in line with legislation or collective agreements, to pay fewer taxes. This is why we see ending bogus self-employment as part of the fight against undeclared work – it is used by employers to avoid contributing a fair share to the safety net provided for workers.

The consequences for workers are dramatic – with bogus self-employment often comes no unemployment benefits, no maternity leave, no paid sick leave, no security, no holiday pay, no safety training, no apprenticeships and no pensions.  They also lose any employment security that employees benefit from – there are certain conditions for firing employees that are non-existent in the case of self-employment.

What does self-employment look like in transport?

During the Week of Action against undeclared work, the ETF will highlight the numerous adverse effects bogus self-employment is having on transport workers in different sectors. We spoke to union representatives who explained how the rise in bogus self-employment is evident in their sectors, and what it means for workers, their access to social security and the right to organise. Tune into our Youtube channel for upcoming content.

Bogus self-employment in the times of crisis

COVID-19 made everyone aware of the consequences of bogus self-employment. They were the first to be left without work, and often they were the ones left to make a difficult decision: their health or their salary? When such unforeseen circumstances strike, these workers are left with almost zero protection.

For the ETF, it’s time to step up enforcement. Governments must ensure that their national labour inspectorates have the resources and the power to guarantee that the self-employment status is not abused. The ETF, as part of the  European Labour Authority’s leading structure, is committed to strengthening the ELA’s crucial role in this. The ELA will facilitate stronger cooperation, and share best practices among national authorities.

The ETF and its affiliates are committed to banishing bogus self-employment!