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 email@example.com, or alternatively, please reach out on Facebook or Twitter.
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 complaint.
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 fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The project also receives funding from ESRC/GCRF, the ERC, and Ox-Ber. The project is conducted in collaboration with the University of Manchester (UK), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the University of the Western Cape (South Africa), the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (India), WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany), the Technical University of Berlin (Germany), Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile), Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO (Ecuador), Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia), Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Brazil), and the Center for Labour Research (Pakistan).
Which companies are covered by the Fair Work principles?
Fairwork focuses on ‘digital labour platforms’. A digital labour platform is a “company that uses digital resources to mediate value-creating interactions between consumers and individual service-providing workers, i.e. that digitally mediates transactions of labour”. Digital platforms like Airbnb or eBay—where goods are exchanged—are not included within this definition.
There are two broad types of digital labour platforms. In the first—’geographically-tethered’ or ‘location-based’ platforms—the work is required to be done in a particular location (e.g. delivering food from a restaurant to an apartment or driving a person from one part of town to another). We call these ‘gig work platforms’.
In contrast, in the second—’cloudwork’ platforms—the work can, in theory, be performed from anywhere via the internet (e.g. data categorisation or online freelancing). We call these ‘online work platforms’.
Fairwork focuses on both types of digital labour platforms.
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.
What are Fairwork principles (i)?
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.
What are the Fairwork principles (ii)?
The five Fairwork principles are:
Principle 1: Fair Pay
Principle 2: Fair Conditions
Principle 3: Fair Contracts
Principle 4: Fair Management
Principle 5: Fair Representation
See further details about the Fairwork Principles here.
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 one ‘basic point’ to be awarded corresponding to the first threshold, and an additional ‘advanced point’ to be awarded corresponding to the second threshold (see Table 1).
The advanced point under each Principle can only be awarded if the basic 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.
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 here.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can platforms apply to receive a Fairwork score?
Yes, we have a voluntary scoring process. Any platform that wishes to receive a Fairwork score can get in touch at email@example.com. They should be able to demonstrate that they comply with the principles. We cross-check all information with publicly available data and reports, a Worker Feedback feature on our website, and occasional anonymous interviews with workers. In cases where there are discrepancies, we will seek further supporting evidence.
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 no reappraisal is carried out then the previous score will expire and platforms will be asked to take down any Fairwork kitemarks from their materials.
Can anybody 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Has Fairwork had any impact?
Yes. After collaborating with Fairwork, some platforms have made changes to improve their fairness towards workers, and their Fairwork score. For example, the South African platforms NoSweat and GetTOD have adopted formal policies to pay a living wage, and recognise and engage with a collective body of workers if one were formed. Those platforms have also formalised other processes around due process, and in NoSweat’s case, health and safety. These changes all help workers to know and assert their rights, as well as helping platform users to make informed choices about the labour practices they choose to support.
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.
Where can I follow Fairwork’s future developments?