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Gig and the Future of Work – the Top Trend for 2017

The concept of a non-permanent worker has existed for as long as I have been working.  The temping agencies started after World War 2 and experienced between 1971 and 2001 over a 600% growth rate with almost 200% increase per decade.  And that is a significant accomplishment over a sustained period.  At the start of the temping industry, it was very much focused on secretarial or clerical labour to come in and replace someone who was on holiday or off sick.  Remember the days of bosses that had secretaries who did dictation and fetched coffee?  And since PC’s were not prevalent in the early 70’s in business, these temps covered for the bosses secretary to make sure things got typed and filed while the permanent person was away.

Roll time forward and today we are a society with a split personality on the right or wrong associated with non-permanent workers.  In many societies, cultures and age profiles the concept of not having a full-time permanent job is an “embarrassment”.  You can hear people describe what they do with words like “it is only temporary until I can find a permanent role”.  Doing contracting, temporary, contingent labour or whatever you choose to call it is not considered “real work”.  There is a social stigma of not being in permanent (ideally full time) employment.

This stigma plays out in many areas – from financial institutions (getting a mortgage without a permanent role can be a challenge) to renting a flat or even applying for a line of credit.  Even when demonstrating that you have been continuously in work for many years, the work is not considered permanent and therefore does not fit within the rules to prove how credit worthy or not you may be.

One of the challenges with the topic of non-permanent workers (I will use gig as the collective noun for the group of people, not in permanent employment) is that it is very broad and full of good, bad and ugly examples on both sides.  And it is very different doing what might be termed “white collar” gig work versus doing gig work in retail or construction or other more hourly and shift based environments.  Employers should not be taking advantage of people by making them gig workers for the sole reason to avoid overtime, holiday pay or in the case of some countries access to medical benefits.  With all of these health warnings gig working is here to stay and more and more employees what to work this way.

Here is why many employees would prefer to be gig workers: -

Flexibility – the ability to work for a while and then take time off.  Or be a full time one week and part time the next.

Paid for output and not input – as a gig worker there is the ability to create a “contract” for a piece of work that pays for the deliverable rather than paying for hours worked.  For many, especially those with unique or high in demand skills, this might be a way to maximise earnings over the shortest period.

Location – not having to get into the city every day to work has a lot of advantages.  Not all jobs can be done working from home but the concept of reduced travel time and cost is a big motivator for many, especially those that wish to live further from a city centre.

Pay and Rewards – Many gig workers sign up with an agency, so they are treated more like an employee to the agency and not the ultimate company that they are doing work.  Many agencies will cover the mandatory costs (workers compensation, in Australia superannuation) but they tend not to include holiday or long term sickness pay.  Some gig workers set up their companies and then invoice the customer as if they were a supplier.  In many countries, this option can generate some exciting, beneficial, tax options.  Either way, for gig workers the pay and rewards are different and for many preferred over permanent employment. (health warning – any tax related activities should be discussed with a qualified tax accountant).

There are many pros and cons to being a gig worker.  Hunts Scanlon recently published an article discussing the advantages and disadvantages, building on the recent US $20m investment into ShiftgigShiftgig is a platform to connect individuals looking for shift type work to employers, primarily in industries such as retail, hospitality, tourism, call centres and similar industries where shift work is the norm.  The rise of technology support for gig workers of all types is massive.  The technology platforms supporting the gig worker (and “employer”) is so vast that it will be an article in its own right.

The future of work is rapidly changing and employers, governments, financial institutions and in some cases society as a whole need to re-calibrate their thinking on what is an employee and what is work.

Article by Mary Sue Rogers


Posted On : 26-01-17

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