Is the digital (gig) economy about to disrupt current workplace legal infrastructure? If so, how will the disruption occur and what will be its impact?
Rapid emerging technology is changing the face of the workplace. Here are just a few examples of how automation and digital disruption is affecting certain industries:
– Most large supermarkets now have self-check outs, which have resulted in a loss of jobs for those that would be employed as check out workers. Of course, many shoppers still prefer face-to-face contact with a human being, however that may gradually change as shoppers become more accustomed to the technology.
– New robots are hitting the market that can harvest 10,000 apples an hour. FFRRobotics and Abundant Robotics of Hayward, California, are two companies racing to push the technology out to the market. The companies believe the robot will pick up to 90% of an orchard’s crop, with humans picking the remainder. Check out the full article here.
– Not even lawyers can escape automation. A law firm in the United States, Baker & Hostetler, has recently “hired” ROSS, a piece of artificial intelligent software. The AI handles some of the firm’s bankruptcy cases. Check out the full article here.
We know that certain industries will become automated. That is a simple fact of the digital economy and the rapid technological advancements that come with it. However, what we are particularly interest in is how the law will react to the digital economy, digital disruption and the rise of flexible working arrangements.
Too often the law runs behind technology. A close-to-home example of this is the proposed driver-less Christchurch airport shuttle. The project hit a “speed bump” as under New Zealand law it was required to display a vehicle registration on the “front” vehicle. The issue however was that the shuttle could drive both ways, and therefore technically did not have a front or back. This is just one example of where technological progress is being hindered by our current legal framework (we understand the shuttle itself had been tested comprehensively with few issues). Check out the airport shuttle project here.
Current laws are rapidly becoming outdated and last century. The experts predict the gig economy will turn current employment laws on its head. There will be a huge rise in casualisation of the workforce where work is short term piecemeal and spread across many employers.
Basic employee protection rights such as minimum wages holiday pay will be subsumed or disappear as more gig enterprises move into the employment space.
We need to look to new employment law models to cope with the rapid change. Companies such as Uber are already breaking loose from the mould. There will be more to come. Silvia Zuur of Enspiral (link this – https://enspiral.com/) spoke recently at the “Work in Progress” conference for the need for change and recognition of new emerging gig businesses. Google already has set up its cloud job discovery site.
We need to consider the social/employment impact of the gig economy for legal change. We need to be aware of a trend that undermines, discriminates and upsets the employment balance and well-being of future employees. We need to be flexible enough to deal with changing workplace environments and employment frameworks.
Have your say:
What are the pros and cons of the gig economy?
Will it favour those with more access to resources and higher intellect and education?
Will it discriminate and disrupt the social order and well-being of our employees?
Will it create a serious imbalance in the distribution of wealth?
Should the meaning of employment be redefined?
Whether you are a business or an employee, the issues contained within this article may affect you (automation of some industries will inevitably lead to redundancies/restructures). Get in touch with BuckettLaw right away to ensure your business or employer is modern and update to date with its approach to employment law.
Senior Employment Lawyer
Principal of BuckettLaw
This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.