Gig economy workers call for government to regulate industry

Zero-hours contracts and low-paid self-employment costs the Exchequer an estimated £4bn a year, according to a new TUC report published today.

Nearly two-thirds of people working in the gig economy believe the Government should regulate to guarantee them basic employment rights and benefits.

That’s according to a new report ‘To gig or not to gig: Stories from the modern economy’ from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

The report suggests that four per cent of UK working adults aged between 18 and 70 – approximately 1.3 million – are working in the gig economy and 63% believe the Government should regulate to guarantee them basic employment rights and benefits such as holiday pay.

The most common reason for taking on gig work was to boost income (32%), according to the research. It also reveals that only a quarter (25%) of gig economy workers say it is their main job, suggesting most use it to boost their overall income rather than depend on it.

However, 60% say they don’t get enough work on a regular basis in the gig economy, and the research shows that income earned from gig work is typically low, with median reported income ranging from £6 to £7.70 per hour.

But despite the typically low earnings, gig economy workers, they remain on the whole satisfied with their income, with 51% saying they are satisfied and 19% dissatisfied with the level of income they receive. This is significantly higher than the level of satisfaction with pay reported by other workers, where 36% are satisfied and 35% are dissatisfied, says the research.

However, workers interviewed for the report raised concerns about their status as self-employed. Only four in ten (38%) gig economy workers say that they feel like their own boss and many are unsatisfied with the level of control exercised by companies.

One such example, cited in the report is a 31-year-old teacher called Paul, 31. He has been balancing his full-time job as a secondary school teacher with working as a Deliveroo delivery cyclist for the last year to boost his income.

“You are self-employed but in lots of ways it seems you get treated as an employee,” he says. “If you turn down two jobs in a row you are automatically logged out of the app. They [the company] also monitor how long you take to do your deliveries and how long you stand about at the restaurants [between accepting jobs]. I’ve heard that people have been called into head office to be given feedback about their performance.

“I do think the Government should give more employment protection to people working in the gig economy.”

Another, Alice (62) a freelance tutor was recently threatened with a £50 fine after swiftly declining a job to work as an interpreter, which she had initially accepted via an online platform, because she failed to give 48 hours’ notice of cancellation even though the job itself was only offered with 24 hours’ notice.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD says that the variety of business models in the gig economy, the different types of working arrangements and the circumstances of people engaged in providing services, means it’s a challenge to find the right balance between providing flexibility for businesses and employment protection for individuals.

“We would like to see a full consultation on the complex issue of employment status, which explores whether it is possible to have greater clarity and consistency on this issue across employment, tax and benefits,” he says.

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