Schalast | Crowdwork

1. How crowdwork functions

Digitization is also advancing rapidly in labor law, working models are changing and becoming more flexible. In particular, work to be carried out from a laptop does not require a workplace and often also no longer requires continuous use by an employer. For this reason, crowdworking platforms have emerged in which companies post individual tasks and these can be accepted and processed by registered crowdworkers as small orders, so-called "micro-jobs." Companies and crowdworkers usually only get in touch digitally via the platform. A framework agreement is only concluded by both sides with the platform operator, the crowdsourcer. Such a crowdworker often rises to fictitious levels on the platform and thus gains access to more lucrative jobs, the more experience he gains on the platform and the more jobs he accepts.

2. Crowdwork – freedom with risk

This form of work should offer the crowdworker independence as well as flexibility in terms of location and time and cost savings for the company because - according to the concept - no permanent employees need to be hired. Crowdworkers should be seen as freelancers and not as employees; often this work is used as an extra income. For the crowdworker, however, this means at the same time that he does not receive vacation, sick pay or health insurance, even if the crowdworking activity is his main source of income. Furthermore, the main earnings here are also taxed. And even in the case of mere additional income, the employer usually has to be informed about it and consent to the activity.

3. Legal restrictions

In a more recent decision dated December 1, 2020 (Az.9 AZR 102/20), the Federal Labor Court decided that crowdworkers could very well be classified as employees under certain circumstances - in the specific case of the crowdsourcer. Continuously executing a large number of micro jobs by crowdworkers on the basis of a framework agreement made with the crowdsourcer can, according to BAG, lead to the acceptance of an employment relationship as part of an overall assessment. If the actual contract execution reveals the employee is actually performing externally determined work bound by instructions, deviating from expressly made agreements, the designation in the contract is irrelevant by law and the crowdworker must be classified as an employee. In the specific case, the crowdworker was not contractually obliged to accept offers from the Internet platform. However, the organizational structure of the portal was geared towards the fact that users registered and trained via an account continuously accept bundles of simple, step-by-step contractually stipulated small orders in order to complete them personally.

Applying these principles, it cannot be ruled out that employment relationships with crowdsourcers or even companies are also conceivable in other constellations. Differentiations are often difficult to make here, so all those involved should pay particular attention to ensuring that permissible design forms are agreed. This is all the more true if the crowdworker is working from abroad. You will find further information on these questions under the term “Mobile Office Abroad.”