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Gig the New Noun

What exactly is a “gig worker”?  Today the definitions of the types of employees are numerous.  You have freelance, contractor, contingent, full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary and consultant, to name a few.  Is a “gig worker” just another name for some or all of the above?  Or is it different?

In a recent lunch meeting of executive women, I lead a discussion on lessons learned in moving from a more than full-time executive leadership role to the “gig working world”.  For this group of women what they wanted to explore how you could move from C-suite executive to a role that had a bit of independent consulting work, some non-executive director roles and maybe some pro bono work for their favourite charity.  The concept of having a portfolio of work that gives them an intellectual challenge, career growth and giving back along with having the flexibility to prepare for that long desired marathon is very enticing after 20+ years of big business working.  So is this a gig worker?

The State of Contingent Workforce Management 2016-2017: Adapting to a New World of Work’ is a report released by research and advisory firm Ardent Partners uses the word contingent and gig in the same sentence. So does this mean that contingent workers are gig workers?  We start to get into circular definitions as the definition of contingent workers is freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or other outsourced and non-permanent employees who are hired on a per-project basis. 

And then you have gig workers who are associated with companies such as Uber.  In a London court case that Uber lost in late October 2016 may mean that Uber will have to grant its drivers basic employment rights such as the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay. So somehow we went from gig workers to now permanent employees? 

As the laws in different countries try to regulate what the definition is of a worker are we going to end up with very detailed criteria list for all the different types of gig workers?  There are already definitions for what is a contingent, freelance or consulting type worker versus a permanent employee, in many countries.  In Australia, it is a combination of how much you work for one organisation versus the total mix of the employers.  If you only contract for one company for 365 days, you can start to fall into the permanent worker category.  These employment laws are different in every country and change frequently.  Something my employment law friend’s love and it helps to guarantee their type of gig work.

What about the tax man?  Each country collects some form of payroll tax either from the employee or employer and many times both.  The financial value to an organisation to hire a contingent worker is significant.  They do not have to collect and pay taxes from the workers’ pay cheques. They don’t have to offer health benefits, provide paid sick days and vacation days or pay for overtime.  Is the tax man going to step in and start a new set of regulations around the gig worker?

The verb gigging is also appearing more often in articles.  One definition for gigging is: -

‘Gigging’ is dismantling the bindings on work expectations and allowing employees to set their hours, availability and deliverables.” 

For the women executive that I facilitated the roundtable, flexibility was the top reason for wanting to become a gig worker.  But not everyone is gigging for flexibility, the Uber drivers might be picking Uber over something else due to the flexibility, but most likely the reason that individuals are driving at all is to generate more income.  Their reason for gigging is very different from the executive women in the roundtable discussion.  

EY recently published a report on gig workers and used the term “gig workers by design” and this got me thinking about definitions.  Here is my starter for ten on how to classify gig workers:

1.  Gig by Design (borrowed from EY) – those gig workers that want to be where they are at, they have chosen gigging as their career/work choice.  The women executives who were looking to transition from the C-Suite to portfolio work would be an example of this type of gig worker.

2.  Gig as Temporary – someone who was in full-time employment and is gigging as a temporary means of earning money until they find another full-time position.

3.  Gig as Mandatory – an individual may or may not have a full-time job, but the amount they make needs supplementing with other income.  Uber and Deliverroo drivers could be examples of mandatory, or they might be examples of by design, it all depends on the individual's motivation for selecting to work for with one of these types of organisations.

Whatever definition you use gig workers and gigging is here to stay.  And this means our systems, processes, employment laws, taxes, data required to secure a mortgage and many other things will have to change.  And change has always been the best thing for the gig worker.

Written by Mary Sue Rogers

Picture credit - Business Daily News

Posted On : 15-11-16

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