Gig workers need more rights

Modern working practices have caused more stress and anxiety, says the global president of Deputy.com.

by Steve Power
Last Updated: 07 Jun 2018

Technology has revolutionised the way we work. Yet it feels like the more technology speeds up processes, the more we fill that time.

This may explain why 80% of Americans are stressed out with their jobs, according to the Work Stress Study by Everest College. Other data, from FlexJobs suggests that 65% of working professionals have left, or considered leaving a job because it didn’t have work flexibility.

It’s not just the US. In the UK, figures recently released by the ONS show there are now more than six million people who actively choose to work part-time or flexibly because it promises a better work/life balance, the opportunity for side income, learning opportunities, and the potential for gaining control over schedules.

Not all flexible work is equal

Yet flexible working isn't a Holy Grail. Many people who work in retail or the hospitality sector have found themselves being moved to zero-hour contracts or 'flexible-hours contracts', allowing employers to summarily tell workers how many hours they can work on any given day. These can lead to higher levels of anxiety, sparked by the uncertainty around earnings, shifts being worked one week to the next, or fear of reprisal for calling in sick.

In addition, zero-hour contracts can also create a huge amount of administrative tasks to try and ensure that a business is adequately staffed at the right time. Anyone who has ever had to create a changing rota, or worked in a job where the rota changes week by week, knows the amount of stress this can cause.

To try and deal with the changes to the workforce, and give better work/life balance for people working in the gig economy, the UK is starting to enact some of the recommendations delivered by Matthew Taylor. The eponymous Taylor Review seeks to provide protections to those in the gig economy, through the following reforms:

  • A list of rights, including holiday and sick pay entitlements, and a new right to a payslip for all workers, including those on casual or zero-hour contracts.

  • All workers able to request a more stable contract, providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts.

  • The Low Pay Commission considering a higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts.

  • Consideration given to repealing laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates.

  • Bigger fines for companies that are repeat offenders at using people in bogus self- employment.

Essentially, the Taylor Review seeks to tip the scales back to provide people working on zero-hour contracts or in the gig economy with a better balance. Not all jobs are equal. But everyone deserves the right to know that they can be ill, or take holidays, and still have jobs at the end of it.

Steve Power is the global president of Deputy.com

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