Gig Workers are those individuals who work hourly, part-time or work for only specific purposes. They are not regular employees of the organisation, which work within the premises of the organisation and in stipulated time. Every individual who works without classifying as an employee or worker can be termed a gig worker. According to chapter, I section 2,  subsection 35“ Gig worker means a person who performs, works, or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside the traditional employer-employee relationship. There are no specific criteria for Gig workers; it can be anyone either educated or uneducated. Even engineers, doctors, professors, and students who work part-time can be called gig workers. Independent contractors and freelancers are also known as gig workers as they are not within the criteria of an employee as organisations have no control on method, working hours.
Indian Labour Law
Earlier there were 44 existing different labour laws, both of central and state government governing the safety, fair wages & welfare of employees. These rules mainly deal with workers of the unorganised sector. In the previous law, there was no provision for workers of the unorganised sector. Their right and demand remain unheard of as no law governs corporate entities and legally bind to them. The rights of gig workers, platform workers, independent contractors and others were also ignored. They are unable to take benefit of labour laws as they are not treated as workers or employees of organisations. But with recent codes on wages,2019, the industrial relations code,2020, the occupational safety, health and working conditions code,2020, and code on social security,2020 by parliament by amalgamating 44 existing laws. This is done to increase the ambit of labour law, clear the ambiguity of definitions, include more digitalisation.
Code on Wages, 2019
This is introduced  to regulate & and ensure fair wages to all employees without discriminating between males and females. It also talks about the bonus, method of dispute resolution and appointment of inspector-cum-facilitator whose duty is to help companies to comply with code.  The inspector-cum-facilitator is also endowed with the power of preventing prosecution of any offence by allowing the employer to course correct the situation within the stipulated period. This code is needed of the hour as many organisations differentiate between male and female counterparts. Female employees get less remuneration as per male employees even though they do the same work. In this, there is no provision regarding minimum wage to gig workers.
Industrial Relations, 2020
This code is introduced to regulate the relationship between employer and employee.  Relation in terms of criteria of a trade union, negotiating council, the procedure of lay-off and closure. With the size of the economy, it is essential to have a Trade union as they are formed with employees. They can keep their demand and issues within authorities and also can collective bargaining. But the new threshold set by the government can prove detrimental to trade unions, as now they have to give prior 60-day notice under section 62, subsection (1) and will prove beneficial for employers. In this bill also there is no provision for gig workers to form trade unions as it mentions in the bill that employees or workers of an organisation can form trade unions and they are not treated as employees or workers.
The Occupational Safety, Health & Working conditions, 2020
This code is introduced to  regulate the safety, health and working conditions of an establishment having 20 or more workers where the manufacturing process is being carried on with the aid of power or 40 or more workers where the manufacturing process is being carried on without the aid of power. In this bill provides for contract labour is mentioned. It is a much-needed step of the government as the safety and wellbeing of employees is necessary for the smooth functioning of both organisation and the country. If health is not prioritized given due care then they tend to spend more money on their health, this will impact economic activity. In this code also there is no provision for fixed work hours, periods of rest, the holiday for gig workers. With this code, government empower an employee to work in a health-friendly environment even can demand it and at the same time make the employer responsible for fulfilment of it.
Code on Social Security, 2020
This code is introduced to provide security to employees in terms of employee provident fund, gratuity, and employee’s state insurance and maternity benefits. Now it became mandatory to provide employees with these benefits, failing to do this can impart punishment. Earlier there was no provision for social security to the organised sector but now the worker from the unorganised sector is also eligible to benefit from this code. The social security code currently does not provide any specific social security to be provided to gig workers and platform workers, however, it provides the right with the central government and state government to notify schema for such workers related to  life and disability cover, health & maternity, provident fund, employment injury benefit, housing. It is need of the hour to provide social security to both organised and unorganised sector, with the advent of covid-19 as loss of a breadwinner is unbearable and pushed into the vicious cycle of poverty.
Current Scenario of Gig Worker
As with growth in population and economy, the number of gig workers increased tremendously. The number of gig workers is increasing day by day as many people lose their job or they need more money to bear the expenses of the hospital. There is no fixed time of work, method and procedure, which attracts many people to earn more money, people who lost their job. Till now there is no labour law to guard gig workers, platform workers, freelancers and contract labour. The delivery persons used by swiggy, zomato are treated as partners rather than employees or workers. This absolves them from responsibility and does not make them accountable in any labour law. The research conducted by the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) and International Transport Workers (IFT),  shows the grim situation of gig workers and they continuously suffer from it irrespective of any relief from central and state governments. In a recent PIL filed by IFAT demanding the rights of gig workers like ensuring minimum wage, worker protection for delivery and app-based transport workers. The prevailing situation due to corona pushed app-based workers in more difficulties. Even though, after the formulation of four labour codes, there is no provision made for gig workers, except social security 2020, which till now have not been in effect.
The prevailing situation of gig workers is in a pathetic state. During the pandemic, they continue to provide their services even though they do not enjoy rights like fair wages, safety and security as employees or workers. They are exploited by corporate and big entities as they are simply exempt from responsibilities by stating gig workers are not in the definition of worker or employee. Gig workers are an important part of the economy, their needs and demand also should be fulfilled. The state has to formulate law and ensure its implementation.
Author(s) Name: Suruchi Kumari (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)
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