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FAQs

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). If you have a question that isn’t answered here, or would like to get in touch with the project, please email us at info@fair.work, or alternatively, please reach out on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

About Fairwork

What Does Fairwork Do?

Fairwork evaluates the work conditions of digital labour platforms in the platform economy internationally, and scores individual platforms on how well, or how poorly, they do. The project has developed five principles of fair work that digital platforms should comply with in order to be considered Fairwork compliant.

What is Fairwork? Who funds it?

Fairwork is a project based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The project also receives funding from ESRC/GCRF, the ERC, Ox-Ber, and the Ford Foundation.

The project is conducted in collaboration with the American University of Cairo (Egypt), the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Social Innovation Studies (Hong Kong), De La Salle University (Philippines), the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (India), the Centre for Labour Research (Pakistan), FLACSO-Ecuador (Ecuador), Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (Ghana), Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), iSocial (Bangladesh), Public Policy Research Center (Serbia), the Technical University of Berlin (Germany), Tu Wien (Austria), Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile), Universidad del Rosario (Colombia), Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Brazil), Universitas Gadjah Mada’s Center for Digital Society (Indonesia), University of California’s Hastings College of the Law (US), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), University of Leuven (Belgium), the University of Manchester (UK),  the University of Oxford (UK), the University of the Western Cape (South Africa), Weizenbaum Institut (Germany), WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany), and XU Exponential University (Germany).

Has Fairwork had any impact?

Yes. After conversations with Fairwork, several companies across the world have made changes to improve their working conditions in compliance with the Fairwork principles. Platforms have adopted formal policies to address inadequate wages, discrimination, health and safety concerns, and ensure collective representation rights. For information about platform changes, check the ratings page and our annual report.

Where can I follow Fairwork’s future developments?

Principles

What are Fairwork principles?

They are principles that we believe all fair work should be characterised by. Irrespective of how work is classified, organised, managed, and carried out, it should adhere to principles of fair work.

Find out full details in our Fairwork Principles section.

Why do you have five principles and ten points?

We give every platform a score out of ten based on their adherence to our five principles. Each of our five principles is divided into two thresholds. Accordingly, for each Principle, the scoring system allows a first point to be awarded corresponding to the first threshold, and an additional second point to be awarded corresponding to the second threshold.

The second point under each Principle can only be awarded if the first point for that Principle has been awarded. The thresholds specify the evidence required for a platform to receive a given point. Where no verifiable evidence is available that meets a given threshold, the platform is not awarded that point. A platform can therefore receive a maximum Fairwork Score of ten points.

See further details about the Fairwork principles and thresholds for gig work platforms, and for cloudwork platforms.

How were the principles arrived at, and do they change?

The Fairwork principles were developed through an extensive literature review of published research on job quality, years of research with gig workers and online freelancers, and consultations with a diverse range of stakeholders, including workers, platforms, trade unions, and labour activists.

We evolve our principles based on our ongoing research and feedback from stakeholders. We do this through a systematic voting process that allows for all Fairwork teams to carefully consider and provide input into any proposed changes. If you have any feedback about our principles, please get in touch at info@fair.work.

Can I use the Fairwork method?

We are working with numerous collaborators who are using the Fairwork principles and methods in their own cities. If you wish to discuss collaboration, please get in touch at info@fair.work.

Companies

Which companies are covered by the Fairwork principles?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines a “digital labour platform” as an enterprise that mediates and facilitates “labour exchange between different users, such as businesses, workers and consumers” (ILO, 2021, p. 31). That includes digital labour “marketplaces” where “businesses set up the tasks and requirements and the platforms match these to a global pool of workers who can complete the tasks within the specified time” (ILO 2021, p. 107). Marketplaces that do not facilitate labour exchanges – for example, Airbnb (which matches owners of accommodation with those seeking to rent short term accommodation) and eBay (which matches buyers and sellers of goods) are obviously excluded from the definition. The ILO’s definition of “digital labour platform” is widely accepted and includes many different business models (De Stefano, 2016, p. 1).   

Fairwork’s research covers digital labour platforms that fall within this definition that aim to connect individual service providers with consumers of the service through the platform interface. Fairwork’s research does not cover platforms that mediate offers of employment between individuals and employers (whether on a long-term or on a temporary basis).  

Fairwork distinguishes between two types of these platforms. The first, is ’geographically-tethered’ platforms where the work is required to be done in a particular location such as delivering food from a restaurant to an apartment, driving a person from one part of town to another or cleaning. We call these ‘gig work platforms’. The second is ’cloudwork’ platforms where the work can, in theory, be performed from any location via the internet.  

The thresholds for meeting each principle are different for location based and cloudwork platforms because gig work platforms can be benchmarked against local market factors, risks/harms, and regulations that apply in that country, whereas cloudwork platforms cannot because (by their nature) the work can be performed from anywhere and so different market factors, risks/harms, and regulations apply depending on where the work is performed.  

The platforms covered by Fairwork’s research have different business, revenue and governance models including employment-based, subcontractor, commission-based, franchise, piece-rate, shift-based, subscription models. Some of those models involve the platforms making direct payments to workers (including through sub-contractors). 

What about when companies outsource operations to other enterprises?

Some digital labour platforms outsource parts of their operations to other enterprises. While some of these companies operate under the same name as the main company, or a slightly different version of it (e.g. ‘Amazon Flex’ is a delivery platform that exclusively services Amazon), others may provide their services to the main company while additionally carrying out their own operations (e.g. DPD and myHermes, in addition to making other deliveries, also services Amazon). Where operational subcontracting relations are in place, we consider the responsibility for ensuring compliance with fair work principles to rest on the main company that outsources its operations.

Labour Organisations

How does Fairwork work with labour organisations?

Our institutional pathways of change implicate multiple actors that we engage with while working to promote fairer conditions in the global platform economy. This includes platforms, policymakers, consumers, and critically, gig workers and the labour organisations that represent their interests. Fairwork engages with several of these groups across the different countries we operate in, but is not affiliated with any particular union, workers’ association, or advocacy group.

Does Fairwork sponsor unions?

Fairwork does not sponsor unions, union campaigns, strikes or demonstrations. We look to support and amplify the voices of unions and worker representatives through our ongoing research and evolving Fairwork principles, with the ultimate aim of improving labour standards in the gig economy.

We maintain a growing database of unions and workers’ associations in several countries. If you work with a union, workers’ association, or any group representing workers’ rights, we would like to hear from you. Please email us at info@fair.work

Scoring

How are scores awarded?

Fairwork awards a platform a point where there is clear evidence that they have fully achieved the threshold.

What data do you use to determine your scores?

We use three approaches to effectively measure fairness of working conditions at digital labour platforms: desk research, worker interviews and surveys, and interviews with platform management. With these three methods, we seek evidence on whether platforms act in accordance with the five Fairwork Principles.

We start with desk research on each platform, which involves understanding their operations, size, and channels that we can use to connect with workers.

We then approach platform managers for an interview. Management interviews involve meeting with a platform manager and asking them to provide evidence for each threshold on the Fairwork ranking. This provides insights into the operation and business model of the platform, while also opening up a dialogue through which the platform can agree to implement changes based on the Fairwork principles.

We also directly survey and interview workers from each platform. This allows us to see workers’ contracts and learn about platform policies and practices that pertain to their working conditions. Workers who participate in our research are fairly compensated for their time and efforts, and their survey and interview responses are kept entirely confidential.

See further details about the Fairwork methodology.

How can Fairwork prove that a company does not comply?

Platforms are only given a score when they can satisfactorily demonstrate with evidence their compliance to the principles. This means that failing to achieve a point does not necessarily mean that a platform does not comply with the principle in question, but that it was not able to demonstrate its compliance. This in itself is important, as clear and institutionalised rules and regulations are a key aspect of fair working conditions.

How long is an awarded score valid?

All awarded scores will be valid for a period of twelve months, after which the platform and/or Fairwork can decide whether to initiate a reappraisal.

If I disagree with a specific platform’s Fairwork score, what can I do?

If you have specific information that could shed new light on an existing Fairwork score, you can submit your evidence anonymously via the Worker Feedback Form.

Does Fairwork guarantee worker anonymity?

Yes. The specific information that we receive will be dealt with anonymously and will never be made public or shared with platforms. Comments will be used by us to either request further supporting evidence from platforms or to re-evaluate platform scores.

Why do some multinational platforms get different scores in different countries?

Fairwork uses a set of universal principles – against which we benchmark platform-mediated work. All workers, no matter where they work, deserve jobs that are characterised by these five principles of fair work. Despite being universal, the operationalisation of the Fairwork principles incorporates important local contextual factors. Risks, harms, norms, and minimum standards all vary across the world, and all factor into how each Fairwork country team operationalises principles. In practice, this means that while Fairwork scores are always consistent within each country, platform scores should not be used to directly compare platforms across countries.

Our blogs

Cross posting policy

We often receive requests to cross-post Fairwork blogs, articles, newsletters, etc. on other websites, occasionally in a different language.

In general, we would be happy to have our content cross-posted to other sites.

If you want to cross-post any of our content, please seek permission to do so by mailing info@fair.work. Once we okay it, please follow these steps:

Step 1: Starting the post

Please start the body of the post with:

  • This blog/article/etc. was originally published by the Fairwork project. Fairwork is an action-research project that sets and measures decent work standards in the gig economy.

– replacing the first link with a hyperlink back to the original post.

Step 2: Ending the post

Please end the body of the post with:

Note: If you are translating the post into a different language, please translate the text above as well.