Updated ESIP study on the social security coverage of platform workers

The European Social Insurance Platform publishes today an updated study on the social security coverage of platform workers, conducted within ESIP, representing social security institutions from 17 Member States and Switzerland. In this study, an emphasis is put on the coverage of the self-employed as many platform workers fall under this category – and typically solo-self-employed (i.e. self-employed that do not have any staff of their own). A further focus was chosen on coverage in terms of sickness and unemployment benefits.

“As EU decision-makers will discuss legislation on platform work, ESIP members are providing their expertise by analysing in detail how platform workers are insured in terms of sickness and unemployment benefits across the EU.” said Ilka Wölfle, ESIP President. 

The information gathered from ESIP members provides an overview of the mandatory or voluntary nature of social security coverage for the self-employed in the two branches concerned, as well as conditions to access the schemes, and the levels of contribution rates and benefits. In addition, given the current economic context of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESIP members were asked for qualitative information on whether emergency measures taken in the field of unemployment and sickness benefits for the self-employed were expected to continue beyond the pandemic.

Some of the main conclusions include the following:

  • As regards sickness benefits, in most countries studied coverage is mandatory for the self-employed. Specific conditions for access apply and waiting periods can have a different impact on employees compared to the self-employed, even if these periods are the same length for both. Indeed, in the absence of an employer, the self-employed do not benefit from sick pay at the start of a sickness before social security schemes take over. However, waiting periods are also implemented for specific reasons, such as avoiding risks of moral hazard.
  • In the field of unemployment benefits, the situation varies widely from country to country, with a group of countries providing mandatory access to unemployment to the self-employed, a group providing mandatory access for certain types of self-employment only, a group providing voluntary opt-in to unemployment schemes or providing neither mandatory nor voluntary access to unemployment schemes, but sometimes a residual system, allocating rights only  when  the  self-employed are not entitled to another replacement income.
  • Following the outbreak of the pandemic, many countries introduced emergency measures targeting the self-employed, for example to extend coverage of sickness benefits to specific circumstances linked to the public health situation, and to provide unemployment-like income support. However, it remains to be seen whether these measures will be extended, which requires careful consideration of both the financial sustainability of social security systems and the adequacy of social protection.

ESIP had first published a study on the topic in January 2019 titled “Are social security systems adapted to new forms of work created by digital platforms?”  The study, raised the question of whether platform workers are covered by social security systems. The main conclusion of the study was that platform workers are covered, to a certain extent often as self-employed workers.

Since the publication of the first ESIP study, some changes have been introduced in law and/or through Court rulings in several Member States. This might not be sufficient to ensure adequate social protection when platform workers fall under non-standard forms of employment, where formal and more importantly effective access gaps might exist. Issues of work status are expected to be further addressed at EU level through a proposal for a directive to be published by the European Commission. This is in this context that ESIP decided to update its first study.

Find out more in the full study.