Understanding UK’s Growing Gig Economy, Workers’ Protection and Benefits


The UK continues to favour a gig-style work culture following the recent wake of events and current trend in the economy.

Since 2010, it has been reported that the number of individuals running jobs in UK’s gig economy has risen by almost 72%. This survey performed by New Economics Foundation, thinkthank also revealed that self-employed workers in London, in the storage and transport sector increased from 38,000 in 2010 to over 65,000 in 2016.

How does this affect the overall worker’s protection policy? Are there significant benefits to workers in a gig job? This are pertinent questions for discussion, but before we address them, it is important to understand the meaning of a gig economy.

What is a ‘gig’ economy?

A gig economy is an environment where temporary job roles are common and organisations contract several independent workers for a short-term engagement. The term originated from the musician slang, ‘gig’, for example “I got a gig to perform”. This is a temporary role where they are paid for a single performance.

Over time, the gig practice traversed music culture and entered into main stream professional practice. Today, people are contracted for one-off jobs or gigs by bigger organisations. The UK has increasingly become a notable gig economy.

No doubt, one of the drivers of the gig economy is technology. In recent years, there has been an explosive growth in app-based taxi and courier services such as Lyft and Deliveroo respectively. According to thinkthank, this form of casual employment is responsible for the rise in the number of “non-employing companies” reported by the Office of National Statistics.

Throughout the UK, the number of non-employing businesses rose by 28% in the past few years, with the transportation sector experiencing a 72% increase. Many white van businesses are driven by the gig economy and there is more concern for van insurance, pension and other job securities.

Worker protection, the implications of a gig economy

Unlike the traditional employment sector where workers are guaranteed job securities such as stable employment, health insurance, pension, housing and other benefits, a gig economy leaves its workers mostly uncovered. Thousands of people are walking about without adequate cover for the future. The concerns are, they may be stranded without sufficient retirement income to fall back on when they become older.

However, this does not necessarily mean they typical gig worker is doomed. Individuals with a heightened knowledge of money management and savings can prepare a safe nest egg for their future. The outcome depends largely on the worker’s financial habits.

Benefits for a worker in a gig economy

In spite of the demerits that come with gig working, workers also enjoy a number of benefits. Are their rights abused? There is little room for abuse because most gig workers work independently and on their own terms. They decide which jobs to take, how much they may be paid (in some cases) and when to take a break. This is different from people in regular 9 to 5 jobs who have to work according to organizational policies or face the consequences.

In general, gig workers gain some form of fulfilment by being in control of their jobs. As long as they practice proper money management habits, and are satisfied, the future is promising for the modern gig worker.