The gig economy: what needs to change?

Steve Mosser, CEO, Sensée writes for Work Wise Week

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Hardly a day goes by without an article on the gig-economy appearing in the media. And from high-profile court cases brought by workers that object to the lack of employment rights and benefits, to stories of individuals who are living happier, more fulfilling lives because of it, the gig economy is sure to provoke strong – often polarised – points of view.

According to the CIPD, 4% of working adults aged between 18 and 70 are working in the gig economy, with approximately 1.3 million people now working two jobs or more. Often referred to as “slashies” – think waiter/delivery driver, make-up artist/blogger and gardener/Uber driver – many choose to work this way, enjoying the freedom, variety and flexibility that this way of working brings. But others do it out of necessity when, for instance, they cannot secure a full-time job with a sufficient income (and benefits) to support a family.

Consulting firm McKinsey estimates that 20-30% of the working age population in the EU-15 engage in independent work, and has come up with a great way of categorising worker motivations, which essentially boil down to choice and necessity. 30% of gig economy workers are ‘free agents’ who actively choose independent work and derive their primary income from it. Approximately 40% are ‘casual earners,’ who use independent work for supplemental income and do so by choice. ‘Reluctants,’ who make their primary living from independent work but would prefer traditional jobs, make up 14%. And the ‘financially strapped’ who do supplemental work out of necessity, account for 16%.

This ‘gig’ way of working is set to increase rapidly as digital platforms increasingly connect supply with demand. And clearly, this, and other external factors: consumer preference, particularly as millennials enter the workplace, as well as economic factors, will all impact the ‘choice vs. necessity’ split.

I recognise that many people choose to work this way, and that they are happy with what they ‘get out of it’. I also recognise that organisations need innovation and agility to compete effectively. However, I am concerned for those that work this way out of necessity; often people in low paid and unrewarding jobs, taking on risk through disguised self-employment. And I’m also concerned that the UK economy is missing out on the income that it genuinely needs to provide protection and opportunity for an expanding population.

Many contractors working gig-economy–type jobs lack healthcare and retirement benefits, are at the mercy of their employers’ scheduling needs and, despite being promised flexible hours, find themselves little more than glorified service workers. As it stands today, some people are being pushed into jobs that neither offer fair pay and protection nor dependable hours – in fact, some workers are faced with an employment outlook that is more precarious than it’s been in decades. Has the gig economy created an employment model that robs workers of the rights they’ve earned over more than a century of fighting?

Furthermore, while some organisations undeniably benefit from this economic model, others find it harder to compete, as they choose to employ people, and this comes at a price in terms of NI contributions and other onerous operating costs.

We need to seriously examine how the gig economy is regulated. The courts have gone some way, as shown in the recent Uber and Deliveroo cases, and it’s been helpful that we’ve seen some decisions, but what we need is a better clarification from the government around what constitutes employment, worker and self-employed status; first then, can we start to change things for the better.

Technology and new business models are creating opportunities, but also challenges for UK employment legislation. There is a strong case for Government to act to both proactively help organisations adapt their working practices and to clarify employment status, so that workers get the benefits they are entitled to and that the correct national insurance and taxation contributions are paid. This may well mean a brand new classification, alongside employed and self-employed statuses, as this would better represent the way the world is moving.

Only then can we embrace this inevitable disruption, and ensure that the gig economy can deliver innovation and flexibility to employers, fair working rights and protection to individuals, and economic benefits to the United Kingdom. After all, the gig-economy isn’t going anywhere so it all boils down to making it fairer for all concerned.

HR News: CEO commentary on Amazon’s homeworking announcement

In response to Amazon’s announcement that the company will hire up to 5,000 home-based customer service agents, CEO of Sensée, Steve Mosser, commented in HR News:

At Sensée, we welcome Amazon’s announcement. Although this is restricted to the US for the time being, the fact that Amazon is not only embracing homeworking but that the positions come with employee benefits, including sick and holiday pay, will hopefully encourage others to build on strong social foundations. This shows both courage and thought leadership, as it addresses the issues the gig-economy has brought into the job market where people are given no option other than to accept false self-employed with no guarantees of work, income and benefits.Read the article

The gig economy: Is it time to change the law?

Halfway through 2016, the term gig economy was thrown into the limelight. Although suggesting a new phenomenon had made an appearance, all that had really happened was that someone came up with a fancier name for freelance work, enhanced by the use of technology. It also prompted the question of whether we should change the law around it.

With fewer people working in traditional “jobs for life”, the gig economy got off to a flying start. However, now we’re further down the line it has transpired that many businesses are in fact using the gig economy to cut the costs of employing workers – and we should change the law to prevent it. Read more

Article published in RealBusiness.co.uk

Guest blog for WorkWise UK: Commuting; people, planet and profit

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In support of National Commute Week organised by WorkWise UK, Steve Mosser, CEO of Sensée, was invited to contribute an article on CSR aspects relating to Commuting.

On average, UK citizens spend an hour a day commuting to and from work. Over and above the actual time involved, there is also a significant number of other downsides: the high cost of public transport, escalating fuel costs, traffic jams, bad weather, packed commuter trains, personal risks related to late night commuting (visibility and safety), transport delays and cancellations, leaves on the line… I could go on.

You may have assumed that I don’t like commuting. And you’d be right – I don’t! But it’s not my dislike of commuting that that’s important or relevant during National Commute Week, it’s how companies can support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals by implementing flexible – and smarter – ways of working that also happen not to involve commuting. Read more

 

Sensée in The Telegraph: Do you need an office?

Remote working isn’t just for small companies

At Sensee, a customer service provider, almost all 800 employees work from home. The company provides all the software, but staff must have their own desktop computer, phone, broadband connection and a secluded space to work. “It’s as much for the security of the employee as for the data of the client,” says Steve Mosser, founder and chief executive. “We don’t do things with laptops, as Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure – and we have a health and safety responsibility to the people we employ, which is limited to the vicinity of their work stations.”  Read the article

 

Sensée strengthens leadership team with two appointments

Recruit International

Andrew Rosser and Steven Tongue join Sensée. Zoe Stewart promoted to Head of Human Resources.

“This is an exciting time for the company. Demand for our services, combined with intense competition, means we always need to be looking for new ways to improve our offering and give customers what they want – the most talented staff available,” said Steve Mosser, CEO of Sensée.

Read the article

Homeworking Hours

Global recruiter

Research from homeworking outsourcer Sensée suggests home-based employees are choosing to work more hours than when they worked in traditional offices. Despite opting to work more hours daily, the research found that home workers are happier because they’re empowered to choose the hours they work so they can still attend to family responsibilities. Three quarters of current home-based employees (77 per cent) stated that working from home enables them to achieve more in their day, including caring for family members or friends, exercising more and further education. Time and money saved on commuting – along with more control over their day – were cited among the top three benefits of working from home.  Read the article

Home workers happier, able to balance responsibilities

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New research claims that home-based employees are choosing to work more hours than those who work in traditional offices. According to the study carried out by homeworking agency Sensée, despite opting to work more hours daily, home workers are generally happier because they’re empowered to choose the hours they work so they can still attend to family responsibilities. Three quarters of home workers (77 percent) stated that working from home enables them to achieve more, including caring for family members or friends and exercising more. Time and money saved on commuting – along with more control over their day – were cited among the top three benefits of working from home. Access the findings

Home workers happier despite working longer hours

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Home-based workers are happier than their colleagues in the office, despite ending up working longer hours, according to new research.

Despite opting to work more hours daily, the research by home working outsourcer Sensée found that home workers are happier because they’re empowered to choose the hours they work so they can still attend to family responsibilities.

Three quarters of current home-based employees (77%) stated that working from home enables them to achieve more in their day, including caring for family members or friends, exercising more and further education. Read the article