RSA proposes gig work charter

With its chief executive, Matthew Taylor, set to report to government in the summer, the RSA has published new research and recommendations on gig working in the UK.

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As well as suggesting the law on employment rights is shifted in favour of workers in the on-demand gig workforce, the report also estimates the size of the current gig workforce at 1.1 million people – the same as the NHS – and set to grow further.The publication of 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 follows recent legal cases that add some clarity around distinguishing workers from the self-employed and their respective employment rights.

Protecting gig workers in law

It calls for penalties to be strengthened against companies who use clauses that prohibit employment status litigation.Tribunal fees for workers challenging their employment status should also be scrapped, says the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). Tribunal rules too should be modified to allow for a "fast-track summary process that gives workers immediate clarity," the RSA argues.The research and ideas charity further believes that changes to the legal framework need to be supported by wider reform. Government, gig economy companies, and workers should collaborate to create a Charter for Good Work in the Gig Economy. This would set out how the sector can support career development and professional fulfillment, as well as mitigate market imbalances and technological change.

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Impact of technology on gig working

As well as recent employment law cases and public debate about zero-hours contracts, the study of 8,000 people of employment age in the UK comes at a time of increased focus on the future workforce with the impact of technology beginning to be more widely understood.The report finds finds that men predominate in gig work – a cohort also most likely according to some predictions to lose out in the automisation and digitization of jobs.The role of the gig economy in the UK is also likely to rise. Over the last five years, the trend of using online platforms to source small, sometimes on-demand, jobs has accelerated, and shows little sign of slowing down.Today, 18 per cent of the working age population would consider some form of gig work. This figure ties in with other recent research showing significant latent demand for more flexible approaches to work and gig workers' perceptions of life in the on-demand economy.

Further potential for gig economy to grow

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.”Céline Lazorthes, founder and CEO of business-to-business payment system, Mangopay, which supported the RSA’s research, added: “The rapid growth of the gig economy raises the question of our changing relationship with work. It creates non-traditional dynamics between employers and employees. Over the coming years, we will require innovation to enable and facilitate this new working style.“Traditional institutions, such as insurance companies and banks, must respond to the increasing need for flexibility of process. The market must adapt and design solutions that create a positive impact for those working in the gig economy today.”

The spring issue of Relocate magazine features more of the latest research and analysis on HR, education and skills, including flexible approaches to mobility in the gig economy. Download your copy here. Relocate will also be reporting from the CIPD Learning & Development show on 10-11 May 2017 to bring you the latest insights.

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