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How learning opportunities can add more value for gig economy workers – TechTalks

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By Aldona Limani

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Image credit: Depositphotos

The rise of the gig economy continues apace. According to a study by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the University of Hertfordshire, the gig economy has more than doubled over the last three years and now accounts for one in 10 workers in the UK.

As the TUC highlights in its study, when an increasing proportion of the workforce operates on flexible contracts, there are upsides and downsides for both the business and the worker. While there has certainly been abuse of the system to the detriment of workers at times—and a corresponding and much-needed call for better protections—for many tech platforms, the arrangement has suited both workers and the company.

That said, it arguably becomes imperative for companies to offer a differentiating experience to contractors. Especially where the barrier to entry is coding a mobile app, competition is fierce and the labor market tight.

Certain benefits simply cannot be made available to non-employees without defining the relationship in such a way as would class contractors actually as employees. However, one area in which gig economy companies can engender greater trust with their contractors is by offering tools that can help make their day to day jobs easier and also to provide opportunities to develop their skills.

Training gig economy workers

A big challenge faced by gig economy tech companies is helping contractors make the most of their opportunity working for the platform, and also boosting the customer experience, through effective training.

Classroom style training is out of reach for most gig economy contractors. They are not centralized. It would also not be cost-effective given that the tech companies operating apps that rely on flexible contractors do not have the office space to accommodate training in this format for non-employees.

Fortunately, mobile learning has come on leaps and bounds with the realization that this is the dominant form factor for many deskless workers. It is now possible for flexible workers to enjoy a frictionless, uninterrupted training experience and to get up to speed quickly when taking on a new role. This can enable a vastly better experience for workers and customers of the service in question.

Another avenue is to introduce the concept of social learning. As a community grows up more and more around gig economy workers for specific services, there is an opportunity to harness the collective wisdom of the crowd and capture tips and tricks videos from contractors to share with people new to the platform. This can help create a collegiate feel, build trust and raise the bar for all new workers.

Helping contractors upskill

With the threat of automation taking jobs, more needs to be done to safeguard the future of our human workforce, and this is particularly important where workers are making their living outside of traditional employment arrangements. In a world where skills needs are evolving at an increasingly rapid pace, and the gig economy is on the rise, tech companies can make a valuable contribution by providing a platform that enables contractors to upskill for the benefit of their own career during their downtime.

In between orders and pickups, contractors can be given an opportunity to take courses and develop skills that may help them transition into other careers should that be an aspiration. While flexible work can suit companies and individuals at different times, it can benefit companies to help.

Furthermore, the course content on offer does not necessarily need to be vocational to be rewarding for workers. It can be about developing practical everyday skills or even just general interest.

As automation increases and – based on the more utopian predictions – we are able to work less, people will begin to think more about learning both from a vocational and personal growth point of view.

Companies that rely on flexible labor have an opportunity to help their contractors in ways that do not blur the lines of employment and can, in fact, help make this less structured form of employment be more rewarding. Learning opportunities can be a major part of that.

Aldona LimaniAldona Limani is a Market Development Manager at Docebo

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As Congress scrutinizes gig worker rules, small-business owners need to know the basics – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Uber’s UK ruling could have implications for gig economy startups

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Former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar first brought their case against Uber in 2016
(Carl Court/Getty Images)

The UK’s Supreme Court has rejected Uber‘s appeal against an earlier ruling that said its drivers must be classified as workers, a result that may have a significant impact on other gig economy companies.

The decision—which cannot be appealed—means thousands of UK Uber drivers cannot qualify as being self-employed, entitling them to both minimum wage and holiday pay. The ridehailing company could now face paying substantial compensation to its drivers.

The ruling, which criticized Uber for sidestepping UK labor laws to withhold benefits, could influence other battles between gig workers and the companies that hire them. Earlier this month, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain appealed against a court decision preventing riders for food delivery startup Deliveroo from engaging in collective bargaining due to their self-employed status. Deliveroo, which is backed by investors including Durable Capital Partners and Amazon, is looking to go public this year.

“Employees should benefit from improved rights; however, employers are likely to face increased costs of labor and disruption to their business models, which have proven to achieve rapid scale with gig workers,” said PitchBook analyst Nalin Patel. “The ruling may also now set a precedent in the UK and force other gig economy startups that utilize the self-employed contractor model to rethink how they operate in the region moving forward.”

Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam originally won their tribunal against Uber in 2016. Uber appealed the decision, but it was upheld in 2017, and again in 2018 by the High Court.

“This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery,” said Farrar, who is also a general secretary with the App Drivers and Couriers Union. “Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom.”

In a statement, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood,  said the court decision was focused on a “small number of drivers” who used the app in 2016. Since then, he said the company had made changes to its business,  providing free insurance in case of sickness or injury. He added: “We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

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The future is now for gig-based entrepreneurship – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

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With Californian Kamala Harris as vice president, it’s clear the new Biden administration is taking its cues from the once-Golden State on labor policy.

In one of its first acts in office, the Biden Administration placed a regulatory freeze on a Department of Labor regulation enacted in the waning days of the prior administration relating to independent contractors.  The rule, according to labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips, “aims to make it easier for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors.”

It’s unlikely this rule to give more workers freedom to be their own boss and set their own schedules will survive in a Biden administration that was heavily reliant upon labor unions for money and manpower to win the 2020 campaign.

Meanwhile, House Democrats recently re-introduced the controversial PRO Act in Congress, which “seeks to reduce the use of the independent contractor classification by companies such as Uber,” according to CNBC.

Both of these efforts followed the lead of California’s liberal legislative majority, which two years ago enacted the controversial Assembly Bill 5 to severely restrict the ability of Californians to work as independent contractors.  Their goal is to increase union membership and dues and force people to work in traditional, 9-to-5, union jobs that are relics of the past.

Doubling down on AB 5-type restrictions at the national level – which may be the Biden administration’s goal with the nomination of Julie Su, California’s chief AB 5 enforcer, as deputy Secretary of Labor – would be a tremendous mistake.  It would threaten innovation and hurt the ability of Americans who have lost their jobs to put food on the table during a global pandemic.

As documented in the new Pacific Research Institute study, “The Small Business Gig,” Americans are increasingly working in the gig economy.  They don’t want government – whether in Sacramento or Washington, DC – dictating how they can earn a living.

A 2018 Gallup survey found that 36 percent of U.S. workers have some sort of a gig worker arrangement.  Whether renting out an extra room to earn cash to pay the mortgage or using an app to earn a living on an alternate schedule, the gig economy is increasing opportunities for Americans to become entrepreneurs, while providing customers with lower cost services.

Many in California state government see the gig economy as exploitative and disruptive.  But data from the ADP Research Institute shows that 70 percent of gig workers are independent workers by choice.  Gig Economy Data Hub research found that more than two-thirds of gig economy workers are satisfied with their current work arrangement.

Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the economy.  New restrictions on the gig economy, like those proposed in Congress, will limit people’s freedom to become entrepreneurs while institutionalizing the old way of doing work.

Instead of adopting regulations at the federal level that 58 percent of Californians – Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike – rejected when they passed Proposition 22 in November, the Biden administration and Congress should take the opposite approach and enact market-based policies to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

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