Regulating Gig Work In India – A Slippery Slope

Gig Workers


This article seeks to establish why the regulation of the Gig economy through legislation is premature and a typical case of putting the cart before the horse. It examines practices in various jurisdictions to further buttress the argument that regulation through litigation is not the answer.

The world of employment is undergoing a hastened metamorphosis. Traditional modes of engagement have made way for more flexible, dynamic and value-based engagement models that have benefits for both the engager and the engaged (there is a deliberate restraint from using traditional descriptors like employee and employer) are becoming the order of the day.


The gig economy as defined by the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary is economic activity that involves the use of temporary or freelance workers to perform jobs typically in the service sector. Several other terminologies like on-demand economy, sharing economy, crowd-based economy, platform economy, concierge economy, have all been used to describe this phenomenon but the one that has stuck has been “gig economy”, signifying an economy dominated by gig work.

Interestingly, the proposed Social Security Code, 2020 defines Gig work. It is one of the few legislations worldwide that has ventured to do so. Section 2 (35) defines a GIG WORKER as a person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship.

Countries like England, USA, France, Denmark, and others have gone the route of classifying gig work under the head of employment, which may not be the right approach. The reason we say that is that the essential elements of employment are not met, and the Australian Labour Minister Tony Burke has correctly referred to these engagements as “employment-like”.

The right approach is therefore to acknowledge that gig work and employment are distinct and should not be painted with the same brush.


A one-word answer to why the gig economy would be flexibility – flexibility for both the gig engaged and the gig engagers. The primary reasons for people to undertake platform (and therefore gig) work according to the National Council Appraisal Economic (NCAE) Report published on 1st August 2023 are:

•       Higher/Supplemental Income

•       Regular receipt of money

•       Independence

•       Preferable work environment

•       Flexible work hours

•       Money in bank account

•       Easy Entry


The benefits that the platform has by engaging gig workers are also many. It gives them easy access to a large pool of unskilled and semi-skilled workforce who are engaged and disengaged at will. It also allows them to disengage with ease with no need to pay gratuity or retrenchment compensation. Administration is also easy as the entire activity is technology led and managed, and everything is done on the platform.

The below table compares the benefits of both:


Easily accessible – unskilled and skilled              workforce

Ease of entry – unlike employment-            simplified with no focus on past record

Earning commensurate with                    business/transactions

Flexible with no commitment to hours,        quantum, or duration of work

Technology governed with low administrative burden

No pressure to perform, report to a boss or    justify earnings

No retrenchment, gratuity, compliance,              collective bargaining or other burdens

No tie-in in respect of exclusive            employment, non-compete, etc.

At will engagement with the ability to          disengage at any point

At-will engagement with the ability to          disengage at any point


Unlike the popular notion, gig work is not new in India or anywhere in the world- we have always had plumbers, electricians, drivers, agricultural workers, bidi rollers, cigar rollers, agarbatti rollers, badli workers, journalists, and coders who have been gig workers for decades

What is new is platform work – where gig work is facilitated through a technology platform. This new era has been referred to by Prof. Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum as the fourth Industrial Revolution which is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

Approximately 80 Lakh Workers are registered on platforms like Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo, Ola, Uber, Ride, EKart, Amazon Delivery, Urban Company, Delhivery and other gig platforms combined. That is approximately twice the population of Singapore. This shows how Gig work in India has seen phenomenal growth over the last 5 years in India.


Broadly, gig workers fall into the following categories:

  • Direct Gig Workers: These individuals engage directly with consumers without utilizing a platform. For example, electrician, plumbers, etc.

  • Direct Platform Workers: This category involves workers who use platforms to offer services directly to consumers. They engage in transactions through the platform, with the majority of the amount going to the worker. For example, cab drivers using a platform.

  • Platform Workers for Third-Party Services: This group utilizes platforms to provide services, primarily executing support functions on behalf of a third party. For example, delivery partners collaborating with online delivery platforms.


Employment is a Master- servant relationship with a contract of service

While discussing the employer and employee relationship Justice Dharmadhikari of the Supreme Court in Ram Singh And Others Versus Union Territory, Chandigarh And Others, (2004 (1) SCC 126 said “It is necessary to take a multiple pragmatic approach weighing up all the factors for and against an employment instead of going by the sole ‘test of control’.

Gig works is a contract for service with no master-servant relationship- limited supervision and only technical control – it does not fit the definition of employment. Gig work is a contractual engagement between principal and principal, a person who needs something done and a person willing to do it. No labour rights are enforceable in the case of gig workers and only contractual rights can be enforced.

The terms of engagement are the contract entered into between the platform and the worker. Platforms provide unilateral contracts and also result in an unequal bargaining position for the worker. As platform workers are not consumers but service providers, they can’t access consumer protection laws to sort out any grievances they may have.


Undoubtedly there must be regulation of an economy that impacts the lives of over 8 million people in India. However, this is a slippery slope as the industry itself has not evolved. There must be a deliberate restraint in legislating in this area and the State must limit itself to providing social security benefits and possibly ensuring on job health and accident protection but no more. Over-legislating this area may result in a premature death or even worse, metamorphosis of the industry into something else. This is why it is a slippery slope that warrants a wait-and-watch approach.

Worse yet, it would be to consider gig work as employment. This would blur lines that have been created with the specific intent of keeping gig work flexible and easy to engage in. What is the harm in treating gig work as employment? These are two-fold. From the perspective of the engaged, it means added onus and accountability on the otherwise footloose and carefree. From the perspective of the engager, it means a large disincentive to engage persons in gig work as there are unseemly burdens, economic, administrative, and regulatory.

Rajasthan has already passed social security legislation for gig workers, Read our Article on this. Karnataka has provided insurance of 4 lakhs for gig workers. Jharkhand and Telangana have set up a committee to decide minimum wages for gig workers. Is this a good trend? Only time will tell.


In conclusion, it can be said that gig work is the future. In this post-Covid era, flexibility has replaced stability as an essential element of the quintessential “work-life”. This flexibility is not limited to work-from-home, work from anywhere but also extends to work when I want, work with whom I want and work as what I want. Gig work provides this flexibility. Employment may not. Equating both may be a disaster. Regulation must be guarded and limited.

-Aditya Kamath,

Advocate & Partner

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2 thoughts on “Regulating Gig Work In India – A Slippery Slope”

  1. It is said that sometimes irrgular system is regularised by irregular people. Mr lalluprasad yadav, very successful railway minister, absorbed all the Hamalis in railways as a secured workers first time in the history though they did not branded as Gig. Matadis labor Act of Maharashtra is also helped manual workers carrying goods on head. Gig workers life style is like birds or animals without shade or protection. Contract labor is not new in India. We may trace its origin in Karnataka coastels. ‘Sherigars’ is the name given to the ‘vendor’ who takes the workers to malnad-ghatta area for seasonal works at land lords, plantations and rice mills etc without any SS or SW facilities. It is very unsecured and exploited class of employment of seasonal nature such types of workers is also found who are from Rajastan or Gujarat on annual payments. They are usually engaged by Gujaratis, Marwadis of Southern States who are made to work all in all, say, shops and domestic work includung kitchen!

    1. Thank you for your detailed article, covering all aspects on this topic.
      This defination “Gig work is a contractual engagement between principal and principal” itself shows that both are treated equal and there is no in equality in this engagement as per my understanding as a layman.

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Archana Madan – POSH Specialist & Advocate

Archana Madan Kohli is an advocate with close to 15 years experience in in-house and law firm roles. At BCP Associates, she specialises in providing various services to clients under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”). Archana is the External Member of the Internal Committee of multiple organizations across sectors and is well versed in handling POSH inquiries. She also handles POSH queries, including drafting and reviewing policies and assisting in setting up Internal Committees.

Archana is also a trainer, delivering specialised sessions for Managers and Senior Management, Employee General Awareness sessions for all employees and Internal Committee training. Apart from English, Archana is fluent in delivering training sessions in Hindi, and Punjabi.

Archana started her career with Bharti Infratel Limited moved on to Wipro Limited, Adecco India Private Limited, Cloudnine Hospitals, Virinchi Limited and Medicover Hospitals in different capacities.

Archana holds a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) degree from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. She has earned her Post Graduate Diploma in Drafting, Negotiation and Enforcement of Contracts from NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad with distinction.

B. Chandrashekar Shetty - Advocate

Mr. Chandrashekar Shetty is a Senior Labour Law Compliance Auditor at BCP Associates and has audited multiple client companies across India. He is also a member of our senior legal advisory practice. Previously he has worked as Deputy Controller, Manager-Industrial Relations and Industrial Relations Officer in KPTCL, Bangalore for more than 30 years. Prior to this, he has dealt with Legal, Personnel and IR matters including Wage Settlements, Grievance Machinery, Manpower Study and Social Security Compliances for about 10 years. He is a Faculty member of Labour Law, HRD Centre, KPTCL Bangalore.

Mr. Shetty holds a B.Com. and L.L.B. degree, Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration, Diploma in Public Relations from Bangalore University and PG Diploma in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan. He is enrolled as Advocate in Karnataka Bar Council and is a Govt. Arbitrator of Chit Funds in Karnataka.

S Venugopal Rao

S Venugopal Rao is an experienced labour law and service matters expert and is a member of the senior advisory team at BCP Associates. Having joined the chambers of Mr. B C Prabhakar in 2012, he is knowledgeable and well versed in multiple employment and labour law topics.

S Venugopal Rao holds a Bachelor’s degree in Science from Karnataka University, Dharwar and Bachelor of Law from Bangalore University. He enrolled as advocate in Karantaka State Bar Council in 1976. He joined the chamber of Sri. Kolachalam Srinivasa Rao a leading civil advocate. After practicing for 6 years at Ballari, he joined Orient Paper Mills, Orissa (of G P Birla Group). He was designated as Manager (Law) under the Factories Act in 1995. In 1999, he joined Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills Rajahmundry as Manager Legal and was subsequently elevated as Dy. General Manager (Legal). As Factory Manager & Legal Head, he oversaw compliance of Factories Act and Rules there under towards safety, health and welfare, including compliance under Pollutions and Environmental laws and Explosives Act, etc. Additionally, he is well acquainted with Environment Management System ISO 14001: 2004, Occupations, Health and Safety Series 18000:1999. As Legal head in APPM he has briefed and appeared along with Senior Advocate before Appellate Authority constituted under Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act. He retired from the services of Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills in 2011.

As legal head he has handled important cases both in Labour and Civil and has experience in drafting and vetting Contracts, Agreements, Lease Agreement, Conveyance Deeds, , Affidavits and scrutiny of several legal and other documents, Preparing and settling Petitions, Appeals, Plaints, Written Statements, Rejoinders, Affidavits and Written Arguments etc. for submission/pleadings for various legal proceedings.

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In her previous experience, she has extensively dealt with End-to-End Contract Management, Due Diligence, POSH Compliances, Legal Advisory, etc. Srijata worked with Companies like Accenture India Private Limited, Quess Corp., Capgemini Business Services (India) Limited and Pramata Knowledge Solutions Private Limited. Srijata has handled varied legal issues including drafting, vetting and negotiation of contracts, drafting policies of various organizations. She has resolved issues relating to employment laws and has worked closely with the HR teams. She has provided legal advisory services to senior management. She was also associated with Kolkata High Court in counselling clients with legal matters such as Property, Due Diligence etc. Srijata has worked in an LPO Service Firm, Manthan Legal Services Private Limited for Legal Research, depositions, medical summaries, demand drafting etc.

Srijata completed her B.A.LL.B from M. S. Ramaiah College of Law, Bangalore University in 2009. Srijata is a member of the Karnataka Bar Council since 2010. She is also a member of the Gender Sensitivity Sub Committee of Karnataka Employer Association (KEA).

Caroline Lobo - POSH Specialist & Advocate

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She has also handled matters relating to employer-employee related Enquiries, wherein she has reviewed and conducted hearings and enquired into the matters and has guided the Internal Committee and provided guidance in providing recommendations to the management. She is also a Member of the Gender Sensitivity Sub-committee of Karnataka Employer Association (KEA).

Prior to joining BCP Associates, Caroline has has a wide range of experience in corporate, commercial and contract law, mergers and acquisition and has undertaken drafting, vetting, negotiating and finalizing legal and commercial transactions. She started her career in litigation then moved onto the Corporate sector. In the span of 13 years, she has worked at Chambers of Advocate Jayashree Murali, Krishnamurthy and Co. Legal Consultants, Colt Technology Services and Oracle India Pvt. Ltd. She always had a keen interest in Women and Child related issues. She has worked with Child Welfare Committee and NGOS’s. In addition, she has worked with Swasthi Health Resource and Centre, where she was the External member to the Internal Committee (IC). She worked closely with the committee in strategizing, planning, reviewing and implementing the assigned tasks, which included building material to raise awareness against sexual harassment at workplace. Further, she has been involved in conducting inquiries into matters related to sexual harassment at workplace.

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Manoj Kumar – Senior Associate

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Rashmitha Venkatachalam Das - POSH Specialist & Advocate

Rashmitha Venkatachalam Das is an advocate with more than 15 years’ varied experience including both law firm and in-house roles. As an expert on BCP Associates’ POSH team, she specialises in providing a broad range of services under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”). Currently, Rashmitha is the External Member of the Internal Committee of multiple organizations across sectors and has deep expertise in handling POSH inquiries. She also supports these organisations on a regular basis with queries related to sexual harassment, including drafting and reviewing POSH policies and assisting in setting up Internal Committees.

Rashmitha is also a seasoned POSH trainer, having delivered a multitude of specialised sessions for Managers and Senior Management, Employee General Awareness sessions, and focused training for Internal Committee members. In addition to English, she is fluent in Hindi and Kannada, ensuring meaningful training sessions and effective inquiries.

Having started her career at law firm of Krishnamurthy and Co, Rashmitha moved to in-house roles with Biocon Limited, Columbia Asia Hospitals Private Limited and Adecco India Private Limited. 

Rashmitha holds an LL.M. in Labour and Employment Laws from University Law College, Bangalore, graduating in the year 2018 with Two Gold Medals. She is also a Rank Holder at the University. She obtained her BA, LL.B. degree from Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies, Bangalore University in 2009. Rashmitha is registered with the Karnataka Bar Council since 2009 and is also a member of the Gender Sensitivity Sub Committee of Karnataka Employer Association (KEA), an industry association of employers with over 700 members.

Manisha Vidyadhar – Senior Associate

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Amrutha Ananth – Principal Associate

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Amrutha has more than seven years of experience in labour and employment law and has conducted several audits for both, principal employer and contractor for various leading IT/ITES companies, manufacturing sectors like pharma, automobile, construction and start-ups.

She is actively involved in drafting and reviewing employment contracts, HR policies, Employee Handbook, show cause notice, etc. for various organizations spread across diverse sectors. As a part of the Labour Code Alignment Program, she assists companies in review and alignment of their existing wage and employment policy with the provisions of the Labour Codes.

Sunil Arya – Principle Associate

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Prior to joining BCP Associates, Sunil has 10 years of post-qualification experience in diversified portfolios of advisory, drafting, policy analysis and dispute in the domains of contracts, general civil matters, employment law, competition law and construction arbitration matters. Sunil started his career as a Law Researcher in Delhi High Court. He moved on to be part of regulatory analysis team of CIRC, a unit of CUTS International. In addition, Sunil has been part of legal team of Jindal India Thermal Power Limited. He has also taught competition law, tax law and investment law at VIPS, Delhi.

Sunil holds LL.M. from The Indian Law Institute, Delhi. He is First Rank Holder in his thesis. He completed B.A, L.L.B. (Hons.) from I.P. University, Delhi. He also holds First Rank in P.G. Diploma in Competition Policy and Laws from The National Law University, Delhi.

Chandrakala K A – Principle Associate

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Chandrakala started her career in litigation in chamber of Sri. Ashok where she was involved in drafting, pleading and appearance before Karnataka High Courts and lower courts on the criminal side.

Chandrakala completed B.A in Arts from Kuvempu University, Shimoga in 2003 and LL.B. from Mangalore University in 2006.