The issue of the ‘gig economy’ is constantly on the news agenda, in both HR and national media. From Uber to Pimlico Plumbers, court cases keep cropping up as workers try to assert their rights in this new unknown working landscape. Similarly, in the UK the upcoming Taylor Review means that this is an issue likely to remain at the forefront of our minds for the foreseeable future. I will discuss what the gig economy is, what it really means for HR and how we can adapt to this environment of short-term work.
What is the gig economy?
‘Gig’ working is where employers use online labour platforms to engage workers for piecemeal, short-term or project-based work delivered over the internet. ADP’s recent study, Workforce View, has found that two in every three workers would consider self-employment or freelancing, suggesting that this is a trend we could see making huge waves in the world of work. In fact, the number of jobs in the online gig economy advertised by UK employers has leapt by 14% since May, according to a new online labour index. The gig economy actually comprises a range of different types of workers, from Uber drivers and contract cleaners at one end, to the highly-skilled freelancers, or ‘portfolio workers’ at the other.
How does this affect HR?
There is a volume of both positives and negatives for HR professionals; the obvious bonus being the ability to match staff with peaks and troughs in demand, while the employees themselves remain engaged and can attain the flexibility that they desire. Our study found that 19% of self-employed workers consider themselves to have poor work-life balance, compared to 16% on average. This may indicate that ‘gig’ workers are under more pressure without the security of a salary, and as such is a situation that HR should monitor to ensure that gig workers are not overly pressurised at work. The flexibility offered by the gig economy could lead to a more disparate workforce, less loyalty and a potential loss of the cultural benefits of a fixed team.
On top of this, there are clearly going to be implications for employment law, as the rights of ‘gig’ workers are beginning to be championed far and wide. This could create complexities in hiring ‘gig’ workers, and HR professionals must stay ahead of the curve as the results of the Taylor review emerge.
Like it or hate it, the ‘gig’ economy is not an issue that is going to go away. As more workers embrace this new style of working, it is up to HR professionals to maintain company culture, ensure that the rights of workers are not being undermined, and to keep ahead of legislative changes that may change the way we hire people. Internal innovation will be essential for appeasing both short and long-term workers in order for businesses to make a success of mixing ‘gig’ and salaried workers.