The gig economy must be harnessed to address skill shortages and uncertainty

gig economyThe legal status of  people working in the gig economy must be clarified so that businesses and individuals can thrive, according to a new report from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).  Gig economy – The Uberisation of Work (registration needed) explores the impact of digital work platforms such as Upwork, Task Rabbit and Freelancer.com, which act as ‘marketplaces matching freelancers with a wide range of project-based work’. The report suggests that almost a third of all UK employers will  use these kinds of digital work platforms by 2021. The REC has called on policy-makers to ensure that the gig economy is fair to self-employed workers and businesses, and to secure benefits for the UK wider economy. The report claims that this will become increasingly important as the gig economy becomes more mainstream, adding £45 billion to the UK economy and creating work for 766,000 people.

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Still inequalities, despite more over 50s in work than ever before

Real demographic challenge as number of older workers tops one millionEmployers that focus only on keeping a generation of younger workers happy are ignoring the fact that an increasing proportion of the UK working population is getting older. The latest Government figures reveal that there are now more people aged 50 to 74 in work than ever before. According to Labour Force Survey statistics there are now 9.4 million people in work aged 50 to 74, with 3.7 million more in this age bracket than there were 20 years ago. The figures also show the unemployment rate for people aged over 50 has dropped to 3.3 percent, the lowest level since 2009, and there are over 1.1 million people working beyond age 65. Legislation to end the retirement age and allow more flexible contracts, have, argues the Government contributed to a more positive attitude towards older workers. However, according to the Centre for Ageing Better, many over 50s are still being forced out of work or offered fewer working hours than they’d requested.

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Working in an office is NOT as bad as smoking, whatever you might read

sitting is the new smokingThere is a lurid headline in today’s Telegraph proclaiming that ‘Working in an office is as bad as smoking’. It’s been picked up by a number of other news outlets, has been splashed all over search engines and will no doubt join the stream of misleading narrative that distorts the subject and encourages designers to come up with nonsense like this. So, in an almost certainly vain attempt to close the sluice gates, we would encourage people to read the source material. In this case that is a piece of research in The Lancet medical journal published yesterday. What the report actually concludes is that ‘in addition to morbidity and premature mortality, physical inactivity is responsible for a substantial economic burden. This paper provides further justification to prioritise promotion of regular physical activity worldwide as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases’. In other words, it supports an existing, well understood conclusion.

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A new age of reason for workplace design and management

Age of ReasonThe enduring struggle to improve the working conditions and performance of people through the design and management of their workplaces has more than a whiff of the Enlightenment of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries about it. The Enlightenment marked a new era in which the old superstitions and dogmas were to be overthrown by pure reason. This intellectual development was seen by its proponents as enough to convince the world of the ways in which we could improve the human condition. It’s a battle that was won in some ways but which continues to this day, as you can tell from the work of the most prominent modern day evangelists of pure reason such as Richard Dawkins, Ben Goldacre, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens and the enduring ability of people to believe palpable nonsense. You can see the same appeal to reason as firms and facilities managers make the case for a progressive approach to workplace design and management.

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Growing number of people past retirement age still work to boost income

grey poundFor all that everybody bangs on about Millennials, it’s increasingly apparent that the workforce in most nations is actually getting older and that it’s not just Governments who are keen to keep older staff in work, but also people themselves. A new study from MetLife based on Government data claims that nearly one in seven over-65s in the UK are boosting their retirement income by working, earning around £296 in addition per week. The data suggests that the numbers of over-65s working has increased from just 8 percent of the pensioner population to 13 percent in the last ten years, the equivalent of 1.1 million people.  Median earnings from working are £296 a week adding up to annual pay of nearly £15,400. The need to keep working is underlined by the continuing squeeze on saving and investment income, which generates just £312 a year for pensioners on average. The proportion of pensioners earning money from investments has dropped from 72 percent in 2004/05 to around 64 percent now. Around 72 percent of all pensioners have private or company pensions compared with 66 percent a decade ago.

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Brexit ‘passporting’ rights will affect City office property market

City of LondonOccupier demand for commercial offices may cool as a result of the Brexit vote, with recruitment and expansion slowing, particularly in central London, according to the latest UK property snapshot from Colliers. However, despite the current economic and political climate, unique and premium properties in the City of London should remain insulated against downward rental pressures, as landlords remain bullish on rents and incentives for the best quality units; while given the low vacancy environment and anticipated constraints on new supply, new Grade A offices are still set to perform well. Average net effective rents in the West End are set to fall over the next 6-12 months, but with new supply already below trend and potential speculative schemes being delayed, downward pressure may be short-lived. For the future, retaining ‘passporting’ rights to the single market will be an important issue for the City during Brexit negotiations. To view the full report click  here.

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Acas issues guidance for employers on impact of Olympic Games

Rio 2016New guidance from Acas has been issued to help employers prepare for potential problems with employees that could arise during the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro next month. With Rio 2016 taking place in Brazil between 5th and 21st August, Acas has advised employers and small businesses to have agreements in place that cover requests for time off, sickness absence, website use during working hours or watching TV during this period. It is advised that employers should start planning as soon as possible to reduce the impact that the Olympic Games could have on their business as annual leave requests could be generally higher during the summer holiday period. Employers might want to gauge the level of interest in the games with their employees, have open communications about suggested changes to working practices which balance staff request with the needs of the business to minimise any potential impact on productivity.

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A third of people have experienced mental health issues while working

Mental health and workAccording to new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the number of people saying that they have experienced mental health issues while in employment has climbed from a quarter to a third over the last five years. Despite this, the majority of employees still don’t feel that people experiencing mental health issues are supported well enough at work. In response, the CIPD is calling on organisations to take a more preventative approach to employees’ mental wellbeing, encouraging a culture of openness in their workplace, whilst at the same time, training line managers to provide and signpost support for employees, in order to create healthier, more engaged and more productive workplaces. The new research from the CIPD claims that in 2016, almost a third (31 percent) of the over 2,000 employees surveyed said they have experienced a mental health problem at some point during their working life, compared with a quarter (26 percent) in 2011.

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Bridging the UK’s persistent productivity and digital skills gap

Digital skillsTwo of the most persistent and related structural problems facing the UK economy are the productivity and digital skills gaps. Earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics reported that there had been a further 1.2 percent fall in productivity. Part of the reason for this is that there is an underlying digital skills gap. According to a report from Barclays, nearly a third (31 percent) of working-age adults in the UK lack even basic digital problem-solving skills which places the country comfortably below the 37 percent average across OECD countries. Despite this, a mere 38 percent of UK employers offer their workers digital skills training, perhaps because on the other side of the coin, the UK ranks highly in what the report calls ‘digital empowerment’, which it defines as  ‘the ability and desire to use one’s digital skills to work productively and creatively, and to have the opportunity to continually upgrade them to keep pace with changing technology’.

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Seven ways managers and employers can build trust in the workplace

TrustHow many people in the workplace genuinely trust their managers and employers? It’s a question that we should ask because the answer unfortunately is not as many as you might think. It’s almost certainly well below what an organisation supposes or expects. For example, a recent study by strategic communications firm Edelman found that one in three employees don’t trust their employer. Another related study by consultants EY found that the number might well be even lower, with only 46 percent having trust in their organisation, and 49 percent in their line manager and team mates. This situation has been allowed to develop in spite of the fact that trust is one of the most important things we all need in the workplace. Without it we won’t have the environment we need for an effective feedback culture to grow and for people to feel engaged with what they do and for whom they work. So how can you help close the trust gap between employees and managers?

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