What is the gig economy?

New employment practices straddle the line between flexibility and exploitation.

by Michael Burd and James Davies
Last Updated: 27 Mar 2017

A pronounced trend of late has been the onward march of the gig economy - the move away from traditional 9-to-5 employment towards technology-enabled 'gigging' for several different work providers at any one time.

There is a tension between embracing the new flexibility and freedom the gig economy offers and the need to protect vulnerable individuals against exploitative practices.

Both legislators and judges are starting to grapple with this issue. An employment tribunal has ruled that two Uber drivers qualified as 'workers' rather than self-employed contractors, as they had been categorised by Uber.

Another case involving a CitySprint bike courier reached a similar conclusion.  Meanwhile, the government has launched a review into the status of individuals working in the modern economy, chaired by Matthew Taylor, which may lead to legislative action.

The gig economy highlights a broader challenge facing employers - how to 'future proof' their organisations for a world in which jobs are rarely considered to be for life, it becomes normal to work simultaneously for multiple businesses and employees expect maximum flexibility.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email: employment@lewissilkin.com

Read more: Uber's tribunal defeat could have big implications for the gig economy


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