There’s little doubt that the gig economy is going through something of an awkward phase. While initial excitement surrounding the rise of the gig economy and online platforms deemed this way of working as world-changing, the idea of gig as a sustainable model is starting to diminish.
For all of the benefits that the gig economy brings, including speed, ease and scale of hiring and autonomy for its workers, sobering realities of the challenges and downsides of this method of engaging workers have surfaced over the last 12 months.
In September 2017, world famous ride-hailing app Uber lost its license to serve the 3.5 million Londoners using the app to get around the city. The reason? Transport for London deemed the gig platform had a poor approach to corporate social responsibility and deemed Uber’s refusal to adhere to regulations a step too far. November 2017 saw Deliveroo win the right not to have to provide its couriers with minimum wage or holiday pay, following a campaign for workers’ rights in the gig economy.
The gig economy has become the poster child for everything that’s wrong in today’s working world, with gig platforms heralded as advocates for insecure employment. Following the furore of Sports Direct outed for its use of zero-hours contracts back in 2016, the gig platform is being likened to such working, with workers having to be available around-the-clock at a customer’s convenience with no contract or job security.
Gig workers are not entitled to holiday pay or basic rights and protections, such as redundancy payments or a state pension, afforded to employees. Because of this lack of stability, gig workers can find themselves trapped in a situation where they can only work when customers need them and earning nothing during any spells of downtime.
That being said, it appears the gig economy is starting to shape up. Although the Deliveroo ruling didn’t fall in favour of workers rights campaigners, 2017 saw rulings against Uber and CitySprint that deemed its workers were not actually self-employed, as thought previously. Although a step in the right direction to protect workers, Uber has stated that it will be appealing the case at the Supreme Court in 2019, while CitySprint only applied the ruling to one of its 3000-plus couriers.
There’s certainly a perceptible shift going on in the gig economy and we’re likely to see more creases ironed out and battles fought before we are able to correctly and fairly categorise the status of a gig worker. This is far from the beginning of the end of the gig economy, rather the end of the beginning.
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