Jack Davies: Should Lincolnshire shun the ‘gig economy’?

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Flexibility, a taste of freedom and a more casual way of working. That’s how the so-called ‘gig’ economy has been sold to us. But has it worked out as many companies would have hoped? A slew of negative press regarding the likes of disruptive businesses like Uber and established brands like Sports Direct have made the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Uber have been in court to discuss their involvement in this emerging employment model, with an employment tribunal deciding that the drivers are workers, and should receive their commensurate rights.

In logistics, a move away from this kind of working practice is occurring. Slowly, but surely the idea of trade plate drivers, that is, drivers who complete work casually and are free of contracts, is vanishing.

It’s easy to see why, like with many companies, a backlash against zero-hours contracts and the gig model are meaning workers are now much more likely to be looking for secure, long-term work rather than sporadic, ad-hoc placements with less benefits.

The average zero-hours worker will enjoy none of the advantages a contracted worker would. That means no holiday accruement, no paid sick leave and less overall rights as a valued member of the team.

Employers need to realise that unless their company or organisation offers the benefits that come with full-time or even part-time employment, people may well look elsewhere. One noticeable shift in the motor trade locally is a move towards employing permanent workers. One theory behind this is the familiarity that contracted staff breed. The same face appearing each time you deal with a company can prove invaluable as trust builds up. With the casual and often chaotic nature of zero hours, that repetition simply isn’t there.

That’s not to say those engaging in these models aren’t having their share of success. A recent article in the Financial Times suggested that the gig economy hasn’t failed, but may have proved to be a lot less liberating than it sounded when it started to appear. Workers who perhaps thought they would be better off have found their lack of security concerning.

As we move towards this way of working, which could well introduce the idea that we need to work less, spend more time on our mental health and improve our quality of life, perhaps a light needs to be shone on this issue. Making your place of work a welcoming, peaceful and engaging destination is key.

Perks and benefits might seem like coddling staff that would be working for you anyway, but retention is perhaps one of the emerging issues of our age. Long gone are the days when people stayed in a job for life. The average worker these days for example will have around six employers in their lifetime.

However, is it solely down to employers to make this work? Should the Government be doing more to prepare for what is a rapidly-changing world? If we don’t address this complex issue soon, the ramifications could be massive.