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Improved rights would boost number of gig workers

Posted on July 28th, 2017

The East Midlands has the highest percentage of people outside of London who would consider gig work, according to a PwC survey.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults suggests that while most workers favour full time employment a significant proportion would consider so-called gig work and zero hours contracts, if they offered job security, the ability to earn sufficient income and workplace benefits.

Gig work and zero hours contracts are defined as short-term, casual work. Gig work is typically organised or facilitated via mobile phone apps.

PwC’s results reflect the findings of the Taylor Review into Modern Employment practices, published this month. The report, which includes exploring the gig economy, highlights the perception that the gig economy favors employers but transfers risk to the workers.

The PwC research shows that 81% of the people surveyed in the East Midlands prefer full-time employment, although 53% said they would either consider gig work or already work in this way.

This is the highest number across all UK regions outside London and would rise further if employment rights increased significantly, with two in five people saying it would make them more likely to take up gig work.

Flexible options are most popular with millennials – some 58% of 18- to 34-year-olds would consider taking gig work compared with 30% of those over 55. Likewise, while zero hours contracts would be considered by 35% of respondents overall, 45% of millennials say they would take a zero hours contract, falling to just 24% of over-55s.

The main reasons for considering this type of work is the flexibility to fit around lifestyles, although 43% of East Midlands respondents admit they would consider zero-hours contracts more as a last resort.

The biggest concern is not being able to generate sufficient income, followed by fears over job security. The lack of benefits, including holiday and sick pay, are other key concerns.

Jude McLaughlin
Jude McLaughlin, employment tax director for PwC in the Midlands, said: “A flexible labour force is one of the UK’s strengths, and key to driving competitiveness and productivity in regions like the East Midlands. But it needs to be a win-win for both employers and workers.

"Our research shows that the East Midlands has the highest proportion of workers open to the idea of gig working of all the UK regions outside London. Although for many their concerns over job security and being able to generate sufficient income still outweigh the benefits this type of work can offer.

“As the Taylor Review recognises, a balance needs to be struck between promoting flexibility and ensuring employees have sufficient employment rights and protections.

"In order for gig working to prosper, we need a tax system that is simple, workable, efficient and does not lead to distortions.

"Offering education and training alongside increased workers rights will be vital to ensure that people are able to move easily between different roles and that no one gets left behind as the job market evolves.”

Over one third (34%) of those surveyed in the East Midlands said they would be more likely to become self-employed if tax was the only factor. A quarter (25%) of self-employed respondents currently find administering their taxes a significant burden.

Likewise, 72% of workers said if they were on a zero-hours contract they would request fixed hours from their employer if given the option.

Jude added: “Zero-hours contracts have been stigmatised. However, they do have a place in the region’s flexible job market, as the Taylor Review highlights, if protections are increased and employees are given the right to request fixed hours. Our research shows a high proportion of East Midlands workers would request fixed hours from their employee if they were on a zero-hours contract.

“Striking the right balance between fostering greater productivity and employment options, with increased workers rights will be even more important as the region looks to the future.”