May 9, 2017
Gig economy workers should be given more power to hold companies to account under the law as a first step to making the new er of work fit for the future, according to a new report and survey published by the RSA. Good Gigs: A fairer future for the UK’s gig economy recommends the burden of proof be shifted to companies to prove gig workers are not employees, and that penalties should be strengthened against companies who use clauses that prohibit employment status litigation. As part of the project, the RSA undertook the largest ever survey on Britain’s gig economy, which reveals that there are currently 1.1 million people working in Britain’s gig economy, making it almost as big as NHS England.
The report claims that tribunal fees for workers challenging their employment status should be scrapped, and tribunal rules should be modified to allow for a fast-track summary process to give workers immediate clarity. But legal changes on employment status alone are insufficient to transform workers’ experiences in the gig economy, argues the report. Without other wider reform, the combination of technological change and market power could harm gig workers’ well-being over the long-term.
The RSA recommends that government take a new approach to regulating the gig economy. Under ‘shared regulation’, government, gig economy companies, and workers should collaborate to create a Charter for Good Work in the Gig Economy, setting out how the sector can support career development and professional fulfilment.
The report, supported by online payment solution firm MANGOPAY, also recommends addressing issues of capital, culture and market distortions through greater investment in ‘Worker Tech’ and sustainable business models. It also calls for an inquiry into whether market competition across the whole economy is robust and serving the interests of customers, suppliers, shareholders and taxpayers.
As part of the project, the RSA undertook the largest ever survey on Britain’s gig economy, which reveals that:
- There are currently 1.1 million people working in Britain’s gig economy, making it almost as big as NHS England.
- 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 are particularly attracted to gig work. A third of the gig economy workforce is aged between 16 and 30, compared to 11% of other self-employed workers and a quarter of employees. A quarter of all 16 – 30 year olds are considering gig work in the future.
The report’s lead author, RSA Senior Researcher Brhmie Balaram, said “Our survey – the biggest ever of its type – shows the potential for the gig economy to grow at great speed over the coming years. In the short term, this means we must tackle the debate about the employment status of gig workers and clarify the law. But to truly transform gig workers’ experiences of the labour market, we need an approach that goes way beyond legal housekeeping. That’s why we are urging government and the gig economy industry to collaborate and create a good work charter which sets out how gig workers can have fulfilling working lives.”