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Does anyone know what Gigworkers are? Or how many there are?

This is a fundamental question – and of crucial importance – as we move into the Post Covid and Post-Brexit environment.

There are serious complexities in understanding the size, the terminology, the definitions and the constant change and variability in virtually all aspects of this sector of the workforce.  In fact, they are Atypical workers, Part-timers, Self-employed, Contractors, Freelancers, Interim Managers, Temps, Consultants (Independent or nearly so), Management Consultants, Semi-retired people, Portfolio Workers, Off-payroll workers, those who work through PSCs (Personal Service Companies), full-time workers increasingly doing jobs on the side category.  Some see themselves as (working) Consultants and some see themselves as unemployed and this might vary from month to month. Additionally, many move around within these categories and on and off permanent payrolls. This overall category will also include Zero Hour workers. Issues around insecurity apply to all these categories but get spoken about most in relation to Zero Hours Contracting.

Faced with this, it seems sensible to refer to them all as Gigworkers.  The feature they all have in common is that ALL of them are something other than full-time employees on a payroll.

As to the question   “How many Gigworkers are there?, the best place to find an answer can be found in the ONS monthly employment figures. Ask the question “How many workers are purely full time employees on a payroll?”  –  and to assume that all the others are what we may generically call Gigworkers. What we are trying to get at are those individuals who are NOT dependant on a single employer for all of their time – implying that they – personally – need to find things to fill the rest of their time- and assuming that they actually want to do this – which many don’t and/or can’t.

Please refer to the ONS Monthly Employment statistics and track down their Schedule EMP01 (Dec 2020). Of the 33m working population in the UK only 21m are full -timers on the payroll – and this figure includes 1.1m with second jobs and 1.6m temps.  Note that about 5m of these are public sector workers and between 4m and 5m are currently on furlough.  The Unemployed – currently – 1.7m – are not included in the 33m. Because the ONS figures are self-certified and based on their statistical sample of about 30k to 40k households, some differing interpretations will occur in compiling their published figures – and will result in more workers actually operating on an independent basis – particularly as unemployment increases and also impacted by furloughed workers.  You can read what the ONS say about all this in general terms.

With more Gigworkers coming into the market and with more workers keen to negotiate different actual and contractual arrangements there will be more complexity.  The climate should exist where employment/ engagement protections can be mutually agreed for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Government has only recently started to get to grips with this overall issue – as witnessed by the action they have taken for what they refer to as the “Self-Employed” in the recent Budget. But just look at the muddle they got themselves into over the past year when trying to decide who to support and how and the impact of furloughed workers. But, whatever happens, the structure of the employment market is changing.  There need not be any losers – there will almost certainly be a large number of independents who will make these changing circumstances work well – for who they work for and with – and for themselves.

 

But, for a better understanding of what this means – and what all of the 33m are doing, please see a summary of it here –  www.workingfree.co.uk/self-drive-worker/

Best Regards

Charles Russam

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