The CIPD is calling on policy-makers to provide more certainty about employment status and to strengthen employment rights for some gig economy and other vulnerable workers in the UK.
The new report, "The gig economy: What does it really look like?", also highlights the need for employment status reform so that UK gig economy workers have a better understanding of their rights.
Findings from the report show that less than half a million people in the UK (463,583) work in the gig economy, and only a fifth of these see it as their main source of income.
The research, based on analysis of unpublished Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, shows that private hire or food delivery drivers make up a small proportion of all gig economy workers. Only a fifth of UK gig economy workers are either private hire drivers, working through apps such as Uber (52,898), or undertaking food delivery (82,649).
In contrast, almost a quarter of a million (246,417) gig economy workers undertake desk-based services such as web development, translation and legal services through apps and websites – making up over half of the gig economy in the UK.
Other key findings include:
Dependency on gig economy income varies amongst different demographic groups, including:
- Men working in the gig economy are more likely to say it is their main source of income (22%), than women (16%).
- Ethnic minorities working in the gig economy are more likely to say it is their main source of income (24%), than those with a white ethnic background (19%).
- Those with a disability working in the gig economy are more likely to say it is their main source of income (29%), than those without a disability (19%).
- Three quarters (74%) of people who have the gig economy as their main source of income define themselves as self-employed.
The report also offers a series of policy recommendations to improve job quality and strengthen employment rights for UK gig economy workers:
- Abolish ‘worker’ status to provide more certainty over employment status and strengthen employment rights for some gig economy and other vulnerable workers.
- Create a well-resourced Single Enforcement Body to improve the protection of gig economy and other vulnerable workers’ rights.
- Prioritise the development of Good Work and more inclusive and flexible working practices in regular, permanent employment as part of a revitalised and broader industrial strategy.