An Introduction: Regulating the Gig Economy

The Gig Economy refers to a labour market, specifically over an online platform, where short-term contracts and freelance work is favoured over full-time employment (Gross, 2018). There are no doubt conveniences for consumers offered by the Gig Economy, where simply pressing a button on your phone can order food to be delivered to your doorstep, or hail a cheap ride. However, despite this and the numerous benefits of zero-hour contracts to both ’employees’ and ’employers’, it can be argued that the gig economy allows for the exploitation of a workforce by large companies looking to increase their profit margins through bypassing traditional labour law.

Employment Law consists of a group of legal entitlements for employees that employers must abide to. These have been legislated for in the interest of the people, and consist of things like Holiday Pay, where the minimum statutory requirement of paid holiday leave for full-time employees is 5.6 weeks. Other important rules include the right for employees to receive sick pay and maternity leave. The problem for workers in the gig economy is that as they are not full-time employees, often simply paid for each ‘gig’, it leaves them unprotected with little job security. There are, however, benefits for employees. There is a strong argument for the flexibility of hours being an employee in the gig economy brings. In fact, many people work in this sector as a supplementary job or are looking for quick cash and are not seeking the added benefits of traditional employment.

The controversial decision in September 2017 by TfL to strip Uber of its license in London sparked much debate, with TfL arguing it was a breach on safety (Morrison, 2018). This decision has now been overturned with Uber winning its court appeal, however the whole process has highlighted the Government’s desire to crack down on companies within the gig economy. A recent huge success for Uber employees was that they have gained the right to be workers and not independent contractors (Morrison, 2018). Other companies are also being pressured legally by trade unions to follow suite. The government have proven they plan to improve the quality of employment, promising new legislation to be coming into effect. “We will be enforcing the rights that people have and are entitled to” said Business Secretary Greg Clark on behalf on the government (BBC, 2018).

There is a clear need for regulation within the Gig Economy and it is important that it’s on the Government’s agenda, however Simon Jenkins, journalist for the Evening Standard, states: “the gig economy needs rules, but don’t regulate it to death” (Jenkins, 2017). The gig economy is a fairly new concern to trade unions, and like all novel concepts it must be hit with a degree of regulation. However, it offers promising joys for consumers and employees that will diminish if it is managed too strictly. Workers in the gig economy may at present feel uncertain, and it is difficult to find ideal solutions to the problems the employment method poses, but the Government’s promise to protect the people and the victory for Uber drivers shows that workers in the gig economy can hope for an optimistic future.

Bibliography

BBC, 2018. Gig economy: Workers’ rights to be strictly enforced. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42959756
[Accessed 15 March 2018].

Gross, S. A., 2018. Whats the problem?. In: Well-Being and Mental Health in the Gig Economy: Policy Perspectives on Precarity. London: University of Wesminister Press, pp. 7-11.

Jenkins, S., 2017. The gig economy needs regulation but regulate it to death. [Online]
Available at: https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/the-gig-economy-needs-rules-but-don-t-regulate-it-to-death-a3644066.html
[Accessed 14 04 2018].

Morrison, C., 2018. Uber wins court appeal over london ban. [Online]
Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uber-london-ban-wins-court-appeal-overturn-tfl-revoke-licence-a8418106.html
[Accessed 14 07 2018].

 

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