Worker misclassification has been gaining much more attention over the last couple of years as the independent workforce has grown considerably since the 2008 financial crisis. In the UK alone, it is estimated that 40% of the jobs created since then fall into the self-employed category.

One reason for government attention is that many independent workers lose out in terms of various employment rights.

But the main concern of European governments is their own revenue. Current tax systems that incentivise self-employment and the growing gig economy have already hit some national coffers.

Part of the battle authorities face is enforcing the fact that the classification of independent work must be based not only on the contract signed by the parties, but also the actual relationship and how the work is provided and managed in practice. Having said that, Europe can never be treated as just one block.

Italy. For example, Italy has been tackling this and many other issues with its Jobs Act, which first came into force in 2014. In 2015, a new decree abolished what used to be known as co-copro (project contract work) and made the co-co-co (contract of continuous and coordinated collaboration) subject to employment laws, including dismissals. But even before the Jobs Act, Italy had already started working to get abuse of independent contract structures under control by distinguishing what it referred to as “good flexibility” from “bad flexibility”, limiting the situations in which partita IVA agreements (engagements with VAT-registered contractors) could be used.

Since 2012, under the Fornero Reform, independent contractors providing most of their work to the same company (a) for longer than eight months, (b) with more than 80% of their income originating from that same source in a year, or (c) having a regular desk or assigned work space within the client’s premises, would be deemed to be a co-co-co (with some exceptions where high-quality performance or highly specialised technical skills were required).

And in May, the Italian Senate approved the Jobs Act for the Self- Employed, which enhances the rights and protections for independent workers. It provides them with maternity and parental leave rights and unemployment benefits for workers with co-coco contracts. The law also stipulates that contracts should be in writing and payment terms not longer than 60 days. Further measures are expected over the next 12 months.

France. France has the recently signed portage salarial collective agreement. Portage salarial is a structure that supports skilled, autonomous consultants who work at a managerial level and earn more than €2,500 per month.

As employed structures are still preferred, the portage salarial provides independent workers with a number of benefits and protections. Further, tax management and other administrative obligations can be very complex and time consuming, so there may be less appetite for self-employment compared with other European nations.

UK. With income tax and national insurance losses potentially amounting to £6 billion by 2022, according to the UK Office for Budget Responsibility, many anti-avoidance rules have come into force since 2014. There is also the concern that self-employed workers in the UK have little or no provision for ill health or retirement.

Despite all the changes made so far, governments still have a lot more work to do to enable the employment market to continue to develop in a healthy way. If the gig economy is here to stay, a more holistic approach is required. More clarity and better definition of the various forms of employment engagement are paramount, but these cannot be done in isolation from a review — and possibly, reform of existing tax systems. Ensuring the abuse of existing rules is dealt with goes hand in hand with enabling true independent workers to continue to play their vital part in the workforce ecosystem.