The way we work, and the people who make up our workforce, has changed dramatically. Now, whether it’s the #metoo campaign, or the Taylor Review, there is an increasing movement to address any inequalities and level the playing field. Ultimately, to make sure we are treating everyone across this changing workforce fairly.
Protecting gig workers, without limiting their freedoms
According to a report from Zurich, there are now five million workers making up the ‘gig economy’. We need to make sure that as, as well as social awareness rising, providers and employers are matching this and bringing out the right products to support this new workforce. But, to evolve in the right way it will need to have the involvement and backing from all levels, including the government, policymakers, consumers and employers.
However, it’s also important that as we seek to protect gig and self-employed workers, this does not come at the expense of their freedom and flexibility. We are already seeing a shift in people wanting greater autonomy over their lives, with entrepreneurship and freedom being prioritised.
Striking the right balance around this, though, may prove difficult. The industry should be focusing on creating products that can bridge the gap between freedom and protection. Those companies who are above the curve and start offering more to employees and gig workers than the bare minimum required of them by law, will likely start to see dividends. Research has shown that happy workers are more productive and it will also be a factor in areas such as attracting the top talent, staff retention and job satisfaction.
Making the most of the gig economy
Some providers and employers have already made strides in this area. Last year, Uber announced a scheme with the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) to offer insurance against illness and injury. The scheme allows its drivers in the UK to contribute £2 per week, with Uber also contributing an undisclosed amount to provide benefits, including £300 per week on-the-job accident cover and up to £2,000 for drivers who are unable to work for two weeks or more. The firm has said it believes this new initiative will allow its workers to maintain the flexibility and freedom of being their own boss, but also provide a level of protection if something unexpected were to happen.
Being your own boss, however, has other drawbacks – it is much harder for the self-employed and gig workers to fund, or even justify holidays, as they aren’t paid for the time they aren’t working. This is not a new problem, and the financial institution B&CE created a simple solution for this when it was launched in 1942. The firm understood that construction workers – who tended to move jobs frequently and got paid weekly – needed an effective way to build up holiday pay. Its simple scheme allowed its workers to purchase a ‘stamp’ every week, eventually building up a collection which they could cash in, and give themselves money to live on when they took holiday.
Further work to be done
We’re also seeing new needs arising around education. Continuous development and the ability to extend skills and experiences to new areas could be vital to cover gaps in income periods. Given the current workforce is expected to be working later into their life, education may also be vital to re-skill people. For example, in the construction industry it may be necessary for some workers to re-train in a less manual role later on if they are to remain in their current line of work.
Therefore, if learning new skills is considered an investment for future income opportunities, how might financial products be able to assist individuals in this process? Could a savings plan be offered that would accept irregular payments in from an individual to fund current and future learning? In other words, the payments in can flex and change based on earning patterns and will be linked to a workplace offering, so that the employee’s learning policy is topped up as they work. This could be a good alternative to help students avoid the student debt mountain that has become the norm. Flexible learning and flexible payments methods would support students working and training at the same time, while avoiding large debts to building up.
The financial services industry needs to consider how and what products can be offered to this growing market and will need to work collaboratively with the government in order to make sure that large and growing sections of the workforce are not excluded from access to saving and protection products.
This article originally appeared on FT Adviser on 17th August 2018. You can view the article here.