Around 1.3 million adults aged 18-70 are working in the ‘gig economy’, according to new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). 

As part of a new report, titled ‘To gig or not to gig: Stories from the modern economy’, the CIPD surveyed 400 ‘gig’ workers, with 63 per cent agreeing the government should enforce regulations so they receive a basic level of rights and benefits, such as holiday pay. 

The term gig economy refers to a way of working based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work,  each paid separately, rather than working for an employer.  Most workers in this situation have no choice: work is only available on those terms and is often insecure, such as zero-hours contracts, or on bogus self-employment contracts. 

While 32 per cent took on gig work to boost income and nearly half (46 per cent) said they were happy with their jobs, only 38 per cent felt like they were their own boss, as a result of control exerted on them by the businesses they work for. 

One man, working part-time as a delivery cyclist for Deliveroo, explained in the report that while “you are self-employed”, in many ways “it seems you get treated as an employee.” He described how Deliveroo logs workers out of its app if you turn down two jobs in a row and it monitors how long you take to do deliveries and wait at restaurants. 

The report also found 57 per cent of the gig workers surveyed believe gig economy firms exploit a lack of government regulation to support growth, while half agreed they had to sacrifice benefits and job security to have flexible work. 

Thompsons Solicitors recently responded to an inquiry from the House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, arguing more needs to be done to enhance the employment rights of all workers. Thompsons works closely with union clients to ensure their members are fairly compensated for mistreatment at work. 

Rakesh Patel, head of employment rights strategy at Thompsons, said: “The gig economy is a simple term for a complex area of employment, and there has long been confusion about what exactly fits into this role. Many unscrupulous employers have used this confusion to their advantage by employing staff on less regular contracts, or on bogus self-employment terms, to avoid providing them with the basic rights that they are entitled to - such as holiday pay, minimum wage, maternity and paternity rights and not being unfairly dismissed. 

“The government needs to take this review on board and create a single definition of a worker, so that all working people are afforded the same rights and privileges. Flexible employment is only going to become more prevalent as the working world shifts, so this needs to be a focus sooner rather than later.  

“The government-commissioned review, ‘Employment Practices in the Modern Economy’, is an ideal opportunity to ensure that workers’ rights are not undermined by new ways of working.”