Alan McCormack | Senior Associate

‘Gig Economy’ Comes Under the Spotlight

The so-called ‘gig economy’ has been very much under the spotlight recently, with a number of high profile cases being heard in court over the employment rights of workers in this sector.

According to recent research by the CIPD, around 4% of working adults in the UK, or 1.3 million people, work in the gig economy, and 63% of them believe the Government should regulate to guarantee them basic employment rights and benefits such as holiday pay.

Similar Levels of Job Satisfaction

Interestingly, however, the research didn’t find evidence of much lower levels of job satisfaction amongst gig workers. Overall, they were about as likely to be satisfied with their work (46%) as other workers in more traditional employment are with their jobs (48%). Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people carrying out gig work weren’t doing so because they couldn’t find alternative employment – only 14% of respondents gave that as their reason. The most common reason for taking on gig work was to boost income (32%).

However, respondents did express some concern about the level of control exerted over them by the businesses they worked for, despite them being classified as self-employed, with only 38% saying they feel like their own boss.

Employment Rights

The CIPD study also revealed mixed feelings among gig economy workers about the extent to which gig economy businesses should provide employment rights and benefits:

  • More than half (57%) agree that gig economy firms are exploiting a lack of regulation for immediate growth.
  • Half (50%) also agree that people working in the gig economy choose to sacrifice job security and workers’ benefits in exchange for greater flexibility and independence.
  • Gig economy workers were equally likely to agree (36%) as disagree (35%) that ‘the gig economy should not be regulated and companies should compete to offer workers fair pay and benefits, even if it means less income and job security for people’.

“The research shows the challenge that policy-makers face in regulating the gig economy and finding the right balance between providing flexibility for businesses and employment protection for individuals,” commented Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive. “The variety of business models in the gig economy, the different types of working arrangements and the varied circumstances of people engaged in providing services in different ways means finding the right response to prevent abuses is difficult, without penalising those who are benefitting.”

Attractiveness of Gig Work

A second piece of research into the gig economy found that demand for this type of work appears to be quite low.

The survey, by recruitment company Glassdoor, revealed that only 13% of those questioned would consider going into this type of employment.

Flexibility was seen to be the biggest advantage of working in the gig economy (mentioned by 35% of respondents), followed better work-life balance (11%) and the ability to be your own boss (10%).

When asked what factors have the most influence over their choice of employment, the majority (56% of male respondents and 63% of female) said salaries and benefits. This may be one reason why the gig economy isn’t seen as attractive to many, as salary and benefits are generally less consistent and predictable in that type of work.

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Alan McCormack

Alan McCormack

Employment Law Team

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