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Workers’ Rights in the Gig Economy

Posted On: 27/08/2019

The term ‘gig economy’ burst onto the scenes in 2009. The phrase was coined during the peak of the financial crisis when many unemployed people made extra money by ‘gigging’ or taking on more than one part-time job.

More recently we use this phrase when referring to self-employed people who work for a company.  We have also witnessed the rise of Unicorn companies (privately held companies in the venture capital industry) such as Airbnb and Uber who thrive by contracting self-employed people. 

Millennials are leading the way and make up the majority of the gig economy which reflects their desire to ditch the 9 to 5 and create a more flexible working pattern for themselves to suit their lifestyles. 

With well over 2 million people in the UK (Uber report to have around 50,000 registered drivers in London alone) working this way it is important that they are aware of the modern workers’ rights.

Employee, worker or self-employed?

Working for a company means that the person can be classed as an employee, a worker or self-employed. Let’s explore briefly the meaning behind each of these terms.

The gig economy 

Companies who rely on gig economy workers, instead of recruiting official employees, base their business model on flexibility. They can use their self-employed people for more hours during busy times, but equally cut their hours when not needed.

EU employment rights

Employers in the EU, including the UK, are required to inform everyone who works for them about all essential aspects of their role on the first day in the job to stop them abusing the flexibility in the labour market. This includes:

The employer must allow someone who works for them to take on another job, only give them one probationary period with a maximum of six months and provide compensation for work which has been cancelled at short-notice.

These rules apply to someone who works at least three hours a week on average per four weeks.  They do not apply to those who are genuinely self-employed and work for themselves.

UK gig economy reforms

The latest Taylor review of modern workplace practices details reforms to come into force in 2020.

We’re here to help

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this blog, please get in touch with our friendly team of HR professionals on 0161 941 2426.












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