Labour law

Updates

2 Oct 2017

Billions are now online, but the digital gender divide persists in several ways. Women in developing countries still face difficulties in obtaining access. The number of women using the Internet is 12 percent lower than men, and in least developed countries, only one in seven women is online (compared to one in five men). Detailed statistics are available in the ITU's report  ICT Facts and Figures 2017.  On the job front, in the USA, for example, Internet access is widely available, but technical career conditions are not generally favourable for women. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the largest global meeting of women technologists will discuss this issue in October. 

15 Sep 2017

Google is being sued for gender discrimination in its employee practices, over pay discrimination and channeling of women into lower paying job tracks. Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said that 'Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions.' The current lawsuit, however, 'alleges that Google segregates women into lower paying jobs that curb progression, while men with equivalent qualifications face no such hurdles'. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor 'found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce', although Google disputes this contentionAccording to Google's VP of People Operations,  'Google’s updated workforce representation data shows that overall women make up 31 percent of our employees. In the past three years, women in tech roles have grown from 17 percent to 20 percent (from 19 percent to 20 percent over the last year) and women in leadership roles have grown from 21 percent to 25 percent (from 24 percent to 25 percent over the last year.'

11 Aug 2017

A study published by the US Economics and Statistics Administration explored the employment impact of autonomous vehicles, and concluded that such vehicles are expected to have a potentially profound impact on labour demand. While workers in motor vehicle operator jobs might have difficulty finding alternative employment, other on-the-job drivers (who use vehicles to deliver services or travel to work sites, for example) have a more diversified set of work activities, knowledge and skills, and are likely to be able to adapt to the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. They may also be more likely to benefit from greater productivity and better working conditions offered by autonomous vehicles. The study also notes that the extent to which autonomous vehicles could eliminate certain occupations, resulting in job loss, while changing the mix of tasks involved in other occupations, is still not clear.

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It is frequently mentioned that the Internet is changing the way in which we work. ICTs have blurred the traditional routine of work, free time, and sleep (8+8+8 hours), especially in multinational corporation working environment. It is increasingly difficult to distinguish where work starts and where it ends. These changes in working patterns may require new labour legislation, addressing such issues as working hours, the protection of labour interests, and remuneration.

While this phenomenon requires broader elaboration, the following aspects are of direct relevance to Internet governance:

  • The Internet introduced a high level of temporary and short-term workers. The term ‘permatemp’ was coined for employees who are kept for long periods on regularly reviewed short-term contracts. This introduces a lower level of social protection of the workforce.
  • Teleworking is becoming increasingly relevant with the further development of telecommunications, especially with broadband access to the Internet.
  • Outsourcing to other countries in the ICT service sector, such as call centres and data processing units, is on the rise. A considerable number of these activities have already been transferred to low-cost countries, mainly in Asia and Latin America.

In the field of labour law, one important issue is the question of privacy in the workplace. Is an employer allowed to monitor employees’ use of the Internet (such as the content of e-mail messages or website access)? Jurisprudence is gradually developing in this field, with a variety of new solutions on offer.

In France, Portugal, and Great Britain, legal guidelines and a few cases have tended to restrict the surveillance of employee e-mail. The employer must provide prior notice of any monitoring activities. In Denmark, courts considered a case involving an employee’s dismissal for sending private e-mails and accessing a sexually oriented chat website. The court ruled that dismissal was not lawful since the employer did not have an Internet use policy in place banning the unofficial use of the Internet. Another rationale applied by the Danish court was the fact that the employee’s use of the Internet did not affect his working performance.

An additional point of concern arising with the ever-growing use of social networking is the delimitation between private and working life. Recent cases showed that employees behaviour and comments on social networking sites may address various topics, from workplace and co-workers to employer’s strategies and products, deemed as personal (and private) opinions, but which may considerably affect the image and reputation of companies and colleagues.

Labour law has traditionally been a national issue. However, globalisation in general and the Internet in particular have led to the internationalisation of labour issues. With an increasing number of individuals working for foreign entities and interacting with work teams on a global basis, an increasing need arises for appropriate international regulatory mechanisms. This aspect was recognised in the WSIS declaration, which, in paragraph 47, calls for the respect of all relevant international norms in the field of the ICT labour market.

Events

Actors

(ILO)

The International Labour Organization carries out activities dedicated to addressing social and labour issues

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The International Labour Organization carries out activities dedicated to addressing social and labour issues in specific economic sectors, at national and international levels. One of these sectors is postal and telecommunication services (including the Internet), where the ILO works on assisting governments, employers, and workers to develop policies and programmes aimed at enhancing economic opportunities and improving working conditions. It pays particular attention to major trends in this sector (deregulation, privatisation, etc.) and how they affect the labour force. The organisation also explores aspects related to the opportunities and challenges that the fourth industrial revolution is bringing to the world of work.

(ECHR)

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the

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The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It adjudicates on cases brought on against Council of Europe member states accused of being in violation of one or more articles of the Convention. The ECHR has a broad view of what it deems to be protected as ‘personal data’ as any information related to a person (identified or identifiable), which falls under the ‘private life’ part of Article 8. Its most recent high-profile case on the issue found the Hungarian government in breach of Article 8, due to its broad surveillance law.

(CJEU)

In recent years, the CJUE has adopted important rulings on Internet intermediary liabilities.

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In recent years, the CJUE has adopted important rulings on Internet intermediary liabilities. In particular, CJUE’s case law focused for instance on the liability of a service provider in an online marketplace (McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany, 2016), the liability of operators of internet marketplaces (L'Oréal v eBay, 2011), the liability of search engine operators (Google Spain case, 2014) and on the tension between data protection and online enforcement (Promusicae v Telefonica, 2008).

(EU)

In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense 

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In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense copyright legislation corresponding to a set of ten directives, which harmonise essential rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters. To ensure EU copyright rules are fit for the digital age, the European Commission has recently presented legislative proposals to modernise the EU legal framework, in order to allow more cross-border access to content online and wider opportunities to use copyrighted materials in education, research and cultural heritage; and have a better functioning copyright marketplace.

(OECD)

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation t

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Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation to the challenges this phenomenon brings on traditional markets, and the need for adequate policy and regulatory frameworks to address them. In 2008, the organisation issued a set of policy guidelines for regulators to take into account when addressing challenges posed by convergence. In 2016, a report issued in preparation for the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy included new recommendations for policy-makers. Digital convergence issues have been on the agenda of OECD Ministerial meetings since 2008, and are also tackled in the regular OECD Digital Economy Outlook report.

(WEF)

Within the framework of its Digital Economy and Society initiative, WEF has launched the

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Within the framework of its Digital Economy and Society initiative, WEF has launched the Internet for All project, aimed at bringing online tens of millions of Internet users by the end of 2019, initially through programmes targeted at the Northern Corridor in Africa, Argentina, and India. In addition to this project, WEF also undertakes research on Internet-access-related issues. One notable example is the annual Global Information Technology Report and the related Networked Readiness Index, which measures, among others, the rates of Internet deployment worldwide. Internet access and the digital divide are also addressed in the framework of various WEF initiatives such as its annual meetings and regional events.

Instruments

Judgements

Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)

Other Instruments

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

GIP event reports

Launch of the Information Economy Report 2017 (2017)
How the Digital Revolution Changes Our Work Life (2017)
Work and Society (2017)
Decent Jobs for All (2017)
The Organization of Work and Production (2017)
The Governance of Work (2017)
How Youth of Today See the Future of Work and How They Will Contribute to Ensuring the Future We Want (2017)
ICANN58: Joint Meeting ICANN Board & Customer Standing Committee (2017)

Processes

IGF 2016 Report

 

Labour law gained higher prominence at IGF 2016, mainly through discussion of the impact of the digital economy (including the sharing economy) on labour rights (Digital Economy and the Future of Work - WS34). It was underlined that new economic models create new jobs, but at the same time this creates a challenge for the labour market to keep up with the needs of the industry. 

IGF 2015 Report

 

Developments in the digital economy also have consequences on employment. Digital Economy, Jobs and Multistakeholder Practices (WS 29) discussed the short-term phenomenon of job losses due to automation, which is believed will be offset by the job-creating impact of innovation in the long term.

 

 

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