With an estimated 1.1 million people now working in Britain’s gig economy, a new report argues that it’s time these workers were given more power to hold companies to account under the law.
Good Gigs: A fairer future for the UK’s gig economy by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) says that the trend of using online platforms to source small, sometimes on-demand, jobs has accelerated over the last five years, and shows little sign of slowing down.
The report recommends a change in the law on employment rights — shifting the burden of proof to companies to prove gig workers are not employees — and says that penalties should be strengthened against firms using clauses in contracts that prohibit litigation over employment status.
The report also argues that tribunal fees for workers challenging their employment status should be scrapped, and calls for a fast-track summary process for workers wishing to challenge their employment status at a tribunal.
Wider reform is also needed, the RSA says, otherwise the combination of technological change and market power could harm gig workers’ wellbeing over the long term.
To address this, the report calls for the government, gig economy companies and workers to collaborate on a good work charter which sets out how the sector can support career development and professional fulfilment.
As part of the study the RSA undertook a survey on Britain’s gig economy, which revealed that almost one in five of the working age population — or 8 million people — would consider some form of gig work in the future.
Young people (aged 16-30) are particularly attracted to the idea of gig work — one in four said they would consider some form of it in the future.
The research was supported by online payment solution firm MANGOPAY, whose founder and CEO, Celine Lazorthes, said:
“The rapid growth of the gig economy raises the question of our changing relationship with work. It is a system that creates non-traditional dynamics between employers and employees. Over the coming years, we will require innovation to enable and facilitate this new working style.
Traditional institutions, such as insurance companies and banks, must respond to the increasing need for flexibility of process. The market must adapt and design solutions that create a positive impact for those working in the gig economy today.”