How the on-demand nature of the gig economy is affecting tech and creatives

Some 4.79 million people in the UK are now self-employed, as many seek the benefits of flexible working and being their own boss. The global gig economy was born out of this flexibility, with freelancers and contractors able to take on individual jobs and projects to top up their income.

The most successful exponents of the gig economy to date are undoubtedly Uber and Deliveroo, who act as a third-party platform between taxi and delivery drivers and customers seeking lifts and deliveries. Drivers can pick and choose the jobs they take and the end user knows they get a good service, time after time.

The global platforms for freelancers to take on flexible work as and when they need it have never been more popular. Talent marketplaces such as PeoplePerHour and Upwork and Fiverr are regular sources of income for creative and tech freelancers, but they have come under fire for exploiting the desire of professionals to make money whilst sacrificing precious workers’ rights.

There has been a significant showdown between gig economy platforms and employee bodies over workers’ rights.  Indeed, a Labour MP last month urged Prime Minister Theresa May to guarantee a minimum wage for self-employed workers working for gig economy platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo, whilst preventing them from losing work with no notice, which creates considerable uncertainty for skilled professionals. That’s not to mention the lack of workplace pension schemes, private healthcare and paid annual leave on offer.

Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons work and pensions select committee insisted at a review of modern working practices that all professionals should be given a “national standard of fair work in the gig economy.”

Many start-ups and small businesses working to strict operating budgets increasingly outsource work to the above gig economy platforms, where so-called professionals can horrendously undercut genuine professionals, leaving them dangerously out of pocket. Consequently, highly-skilled creatives and tech workers are only able to sit and watch their profession devalued before their very eyes.

Nevertheless, there are gig economy platforms out there seeking to take a more ethical approach that looks after workers, whilst continuing to offer ultimate convenience for end users. Limber is one such company that’s working hard to change the reputation of the gig economy. For businesses in the hospitality sector, Limber enables business owners to flex their staff on-demand to deal with busy periods or those times when they’re stretched due to sick leave, holidays or unexpected resignations.

Self-employed workers on Limber benefit from regular feedback and communication with employers and are encouraged to impress and become part of a trusted pool of staff to call upon. Importantly, limber ensures that all workers are paid at least the minimum wage plus holiday pay. Employers can even pay tips over the platform or choose to pay more to get the best workers.

Limber’s co-founder, Chris Sanderson said “our long term vision is to replace the hiring of part time staff. We think that type of recruitment is broken – it’s too slow to react to a fast-paced business’s needs and staff turnover is just too high. It doesn’t make any sense. What we’re offering businesses is the chance to fill their shifts with great workers in seconds. Then, after a job well done, they can be sure to see their favourite workers time and again”. 

And limber is also trying to solve a problem for workers – often those on zero hours contracts. “For workers, we offer them the chance to mix and match their shifts at great venues and supplement their income – usually from their zero hours contract which can’t guarantee them the hours they need.”

The idea of depending on the gig economy for many professionals is both scary and exhilarating in equal measure. The ability to pick and choose the work you like at a rate you deserve, around any other life commitments such as childcare, will ensure the gig economy is here to stay for a while yet; and the Government will almost certainly have to stand up for and protect workers who prefer to make a living this way.

You can learn more about our featured business, limber here – limber.