Does the government need to do more to support gig economy workers?

File photo of a Deliveroo cycle rider in central London. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

File photo of a Deliveroo cycle rider in central London. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A majority of people working in the so-called gig economy want the government to take action to ensure them basic employment rights, new research suggests.

A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found 4% of adults are now employed on the short-term or freelance contracts which characterise gig work.

The survey of 400 gig economy workers and interviews with others showed that almost two-thirds believed the government should regulate to give them rights enjoyed by other employees, such as holiday and sick pay, while more than half of those polled believed industry employers were exploiting a lack of regulation.

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The most common reason for taking on gig work was to boost income, with almost half saying they were satisfied with their job, the CIPD found.

A Norfolk delivery driver told this newspaper he was happy working in the growing industry, working less than a full week but taking home more than the minimum wage.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: 'This research shows the grey area that exists over people's employment status in the gig economy.

'It is often assumed that the nature of gig work is well-suited to self-employment and in many cases this is true. However, our research also shows many gig economy workers are permanent employees, students, or even the unemployed who choose to work in the gig economy to boost their overall income.'

He added: 'It is crucial that the government deals with the issue of employment status before attempting to make sweeping changes, else they risk building foundational changes on shifting sands.'

Stewart Gee, of the conciliation service Acas, said defining workplace rights for gig economy workers could be 'a tricky area' of employment law.

'We have updated our employment status advice to help provide some clarity on the various different ways that people can work and the employment rights that they are entitled to,' he added.

A government spokesman said Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, is leading an independent review into whether employment practices need to change 'in order to keep pace with modern business models'.

According to the latest labour market from the Office for National Statistics, there are now 4.8m in the UK who class themselves as self-employed – equivalent to 15.1% of all people in work – up by 148,000 from January 2016.