After being around for several years, is it high time the gig economy got over its teething issues and recognised the rights of workers?
The gig economy has its perks for both organisations and workers. Companies are supplied by a continuous stream of cheap labour and workers work where they want, when they want. A report from McCrindle this month shows that the top three draw cards to working with an online platform are all related to work flexibility (including setting your own hours and workload).
But the inherent problems of the gig economy aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re only becoming more pronounced.
Why gig economy companies should re-classify workers
A recent report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental medicine says reclassifying workers as “dependent contractors” would mean they can access some safety and training rights, although would be unlikely to be able to claim vacation or sick leave. “This status could enable firms to provide flexible workers with job-related supplies or training and even opt in to the workers’ compensation system without triggering questions of misclassification of employees,” said the report.
Other initiatives have also been proposed to ensure better safety for gig-economy workers by introducing a safety levy. By paying a little bit extra on top of wages per worker would contribute to an Individual Security Account. “This could pay into safety net programs such as social security, unemployment, and workers’ compensation and could also be used for purposes such as paid sick days or holidays or to provide funds for workers to purchase insurance through a health insurance exchange,” the report continued.
Continued safety and economic concerns
Benefits are not the only cause of concern, with safety of workers at continued risk. Recent reports of attacks made against female Uber drivers have been coupled with complaints about the company’s unwillingness to act. The role of the “platform” is said to be a link between customers and contractors, relieving them of responsibility towards workers. Those who have experienced on-the-job harassment or attacks have said they are afraid to speak up due to fear they may lose out on work they sorely need.
Social divide is a further issue of concern. UTS’s Future of work research Director Sarah Kaine told ABC news that the gig economy is set to cause a class divide in Australia due to the lack of benefits awarded to workers. According to Dr Kaine, “If we have a growing cohort of workers who aren’t developing their own pool of superannuation because they’re not employed, there will come a time when someone will have to assist those workers in retirement.”
She said as a result the tax base may be in danger and that platforms should at least provide the minimum support to workers on platforms by, “excluding those who refuse to offer at least the minimum standard.”