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New gig economy study reveals diversity of worker experiences

A new report, published by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) alongside the government’s response to the Taylor Review, has revealed many gig economy workers are ‘relatively content with their working life’

Led by the independent Institute for Employment Studies (IES), the research involved one of the largest qualitative studies of the gig economy, defined as the UK’s growing short-term and payment-by-task labour market. Covering topics such as pay and conditions, feelings towards employment rights, opportunities for progression, and health and safety issues, the research paints a diverse picture of gig economy workers. The study captured data from a wide range of workers; from students and retirees, to professionals relying on such work as their main source of income, covering fields including driving, administration and marketing.

The report highlights that experiences depend heavily on whether individuals are carrying out gig economy work as their main source of income. If this is the case, they are potentially vulnerable to fluctuations in working hours (and therefore pay levels), short notice of working schedules and a degree of precariousness associated with a lack of employment rights, some of which have been addressed in the government’s response today.

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, commented:

‘With the release of the government’s response to the Taylor review, it’s clear that rights for gig economy workers is a key topic. This latest IES research reveals that, for many, the trade-off between flexibility and any resulting lack of employment rights and security is worth the sacrifice. Nevertheless, the news of additional rights will be rightly welcomed as new initiatives are introduced to support short-term and pay-by-task workers.’

‘The diversity of this section of the UK workforce identified in the research highlights a key challenge for policymakers in unpacking the aggregate concepts of ‘gig economy’ or ‘self-employed’ to accurately identify the groups and how they should be regulated, protected or indeed reclassified as employees with all the rights and obligations of dependent employment.’

‘It is to be hoped that the new consultation on employment status announced in the response to Taylor provides further evidence on where some of these boundaries lie, and that evidence is sufficient basis for policy and legislation.’