Uber. Deliveroo. TaskRabbit. Convenient, aren't they? These organisations and their apps are designed to make our lives easier.
But let's stop for a moment and consider the people who make these apps a success—the gig workers.
Many 'giggers' do this type of work to plug an unemployment gap, or because the organisation is structured that way. But some choose gig work because they enjoy the freedom and flexibility it provides.
The 'gig' economy took off during the 2008 financial crisis and has been growing ever since. According to the Office of National Statistics, UK gig workers are projected to rise to 7.5 million this year, out of a total workforce of just under 30 million. It means almost a quarter of us work in the gig economy.
And the landscape is still evolving. New methods of employment are appearing, such as Professional Employment Organisations (PEOs). These help businesses who want to set up quickly in a new country, acting as employers to ensure the legal requirements in that jurisdiction are met – even though the employee’s daily work is for the business. It creates a somewhat unique dynamic between staff and the businesses they are working for.
Because of the gig economy’s growth, businesses whose models rely on gig workers are looking to keep staff engaged through new workforce models. These workers might be crucial to the future of the business, so their employers need to consider better ways to retain and motivate this talent pool.
Uber, one of the earliest entrants into the gig economy, has already changed the way it treats its gig workers. The UK Supreme Court found that Uber drivers should be classed as workers. They’re now entitled to minimum wage, holiday pay, pensions, and other rights.
This decision has put a spotlight on the gig economy and how it operates, with many businesses in this field having to reconsider how they reward their workers.
In the wake of a pandemic, it's essential not to impose restrictions and financially stifle an area that brings value to the UK economy. Yet motivation and retention are necessary for businesses to maintain growth.
Businesses who use gig workers are starting to look at how their workers can benefit from the success they help generate, as they would from an all-employee share plan. Yet, in the UK (and various other jurisdictions), current legislation makes this challenging.
We have tried and tested share plan options for traditional employees. But for less traditional workers, like gig workers and those employed indirectly by PEOs, there are limited options. Relaxations for employee share plans don’t always extend to non-employees.
There’s increasing attention on this growing sector of the workforce. New ways to broaden participation in share plans would be widely welcomed. And with changes already happening across the Atlantic, might we follow suit in the future?
The workplace is changing, and this needs to be reflected in how organisations reward their people and associates. Total reward should follow changes in our economy so that companies remain relevant and attractive to all workers, regardless of their employment contracts.
Martha Parkhurst, Eximia
Suzannah Crookes, Tapestry
Ian Bird, SecondSight
Grab a seat at the Annual ProShare Conference on 29 September and listen to Martin, Suzannah and Ian discuss share plans and the gig economy in greater detail.