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Gig economy workers ‘hit harder’ financially

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Half of Brits (49%) working temporarily or doing contract paid work for a mobile app or website said they have taken ‘desperate measures’ to survive financially, research by the Income Protection Task Force (IPTF) has revealed.

This includes measures such as using food banks, shoplifting, gambling, drinking or taking a payday loan – less than 10% of those not working in the gig economy admitted to living like this.

The figures also show that a quarter (26%) are living paycheck to paycheck, however this rises to 31% for those working in the gig economy.

Fuelled by the growing online marketplace, the gig economy is predicted to be worth around £43 billion globally in 2020 (according to PwC) and there are an estimated 10 million gig economy workers in the UK.

The survey of 2007 UK adults showed that more than a fifth of gig economy workers (21%) had taken out a payday loan, 14% have gambled, while another 14% had used a food bank. Alcohol has served as a coping mechanism for 13% and 8% admitted to shoplifting. Over a quarter (26%) said they have had to borrow money from family or friends between pay days.

Sick leave?

The IPTF survey found that 44% have been unable to work for longer than three months, compared to 25% who do not work in the gig economy, while 38% said they would be unable to work for no longer than three months without work and 21% could not cope for more than six months.

Of those off work, a third (33%) said it was due to accident or injury, compared to 13% of non-gig economy workers. Physical health (38%) was the biggest reason for long-term sick leave, while one in five (19%) were off due to mental health issues. Meanwhile, 14% could not work due to disability.

Evan Odell, researcher at Disability Rights UK, said: “Rather than providing workers with flexible working hours they can control, the rise of the gig economy has merely stripped away predictability of hours and earnings, and with that financial security and peace-of-mind.”

“This appears to have a particular impact on disabled workers attracted to gig economy jobs because of the supposed flexibility, only to find the stresses and lack of control can make their impairments more severe. The promised flexibility of the gig economy has benefited employers, but not employees. Disabled gig economy workers are also likely struggle to get reasonable adjustments put in place, access sick pay, become part of disabled staff networks or get employment rights support from trade unions.”

Returning to work

Four fifths (79%) of gig economy workers unable to work said they have suffer mental health issues as a result.

Thirty percent said they didn’t feel like the people assessing their ability to work took enough time to understand their situation, and 27% said they felt they had to go above and beyond to prove they couldn’t work.

To that end, 95% of gig economy workers who have been long-term sick felt pressured to return to work before they were ready – with 65% actually going back into work before they should have. This is many more than the 20% of non-gig workers who have been long-term sick and said they returned too early.

Roy McLoughlin, co-chair of the IPTF, added: “Because of the more temporary employment status of gig economy workers, their finances are likely to be hit much harder when they face ill health, and it can also have a huge impact on partners and other family members financially and emotionally. But with a little planning people can help safeguard themselves and their family from financial catastrophe.

“There are many ways that people whose work pattern doesn’t fit the standard mould can insure themselves against the financial impact of long-term ill health, that would continue to pay them an income when they can’t work – and it often costs a lot less than people think. We would urge people to seek advice from an independent life and health insurance specialist to find out the best options for protecting their income.”

Birmingham was found to have the highest proportion of gig economy workers (36%), followed by London (31%) and Glasgow (30%). Bristol (5%), Brighton (6%) and Nottingham (6%) were the cities with the fewest.

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Gig-economy riders in Spain must become staff within 90 days under new rule | WTVB | 1590 AM · 95.5 FM

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Gig-economy riders in Spain must become staff within 90 days under new rule | WTVB | 1590 AM · 95.5 FM | The Voice of Branch County

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Bye 9-to-5, hi mental health struggles: the effect of the gig economy

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The gig economy offers both freedom and uncertainty (Getty)

The way we work is changing and it’s not only because of the pandemic. There are a lot of options available to us these days. Too many, in fact. One such alternative is the gig economy

 Essentially, the gig economy means that workers are paid for ‘gigs’ which are short-term, temporary jobs, often referred to as freelance work, as opposed to permanent employment.

Gig economy workers could already be in full-time or part-time employment though, taking on gig work to top up their income and make ends meet. Or, they could be self-employed, filling their day-to-day lives with enough freelance hours to make a living. 

Long gone are the days of simply working nine-to-five.

For some, this fundamental shift in the way we work offers flexibility and freedom to carry out work job-to-job. For others, it brings insecurity, no promise of contractual work and lack of holiday and sick pay.

According to research by the University of Hertfordshire, between 2016 and 2019, the UK gig economy workforce doubled with one in 10 working adults using gig economy platforms in 2019.

But whether it’s moonlighting as a YouTuber or Amazon seller as a side hustle or working full-time juggling a variety of jobs like delivering food for Uber Eats or Deliveroo, how do we know the right time to turn off our ‘work mode’ and boot up our ‘life mode’?

And what is this precarious and ever-changing way of working doing to our mental health?

Research findings from a 2016 study commissioned by the charity, Help Musicians UK, looked into the potential links between the gig economy and mental health.

Looking at over 2,200 musicians working in the gig economy in the UK, 68.5% self-reported depression and 71% anxiety.

Some of the key issues which arose in the study pointed at worries about financial stability, job insecurity, and the requirement to have an online presence and network which exposed individuals to relentless opinion and criticism.

Whilst the phrase gig economy originated from the music industry, the rise of the internet and technological innovations has created a whole new world of opportunity for the way we work and seemingly endless opportunities to fill our home life with more and more work.

But is this tech-enabled gig economy causing burnout because we just don’t know when to stop? Or does it allow us to embrace freedom from traditional corporate roles?

Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, has been taking a look at the social, organizational, and policy implications of the shift towards the online gig economy.

Dr Alex Wood, who has been working on the study, says the gig economy can have both positive and negative consequences on our mental health.

‘We find that one of the things workers like most about this work is the sense of being their own boss as they don’t have to deal with a manager on a day-to-day basis.’ Alex tells Metro.co.uk.

Dr. Alex Wood has been studying the effects of the gig economy (Alex Wood)

‘This autonomy from traditional management is a real positive for many workers but that comes with the stress caused by the algorithmic control of their work by platforms; knowing that if they don’t work hard they’ll get a bad rating and lose your ability to make a living.’

‘This algorithmic control comes with its own risks for mental health as workers work hard for long hours without taking many breaks which can cause burnout.’

Michael Daly, associate professor in Psychology/Behavioural Science at Maynooth University, says the research he and his team have carried out on underemployment and psychological distress has shown a notable increase ‘when a discrepancy emerges between the amount of hours they would like to work and the hours offered by their employer.’

‘Workers also want job and income security, benefits such as health insurance, and opportunities for promotion and career development that tend to be underrepresented in gig economy jobs.’

But what do the people who actually exist in this new way of working think about it?

Phillip Smith, a freelance editor, is fully immersed in the gig economy and says finding the right work-life balance is tough. 

‘There was a period at the start where I was building contacts where you would be repeatedly hitting refresh on your emails begging for replies, that was tough.’

As a freelance editor, Phill Smith is immersed in the gig economy (Phill Smith)

Phill says carving out time for exercise has massively counterbalanced the negativity overworking has caused his mental health.

‘I’ve had a few crazy weeks where I’ve landed too much work and realised I had to pull back. I found that I have to rota in downtime during the week. I have a home studio so I can and have worked every hour of the day so forcing myself to go for a run or do yoga is essential.’

Working full time in the gig economy is one thing, buy what about having a ‘side hustle’ alongside a full-time job?

Amy Harris works as a full-time retail manager but launched her own craft store on Etsy during the Covid pandemic.

‘Having been on furlough for so long it was something that definitely worried me if I would be able to keep it up once back,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

Amy says the opportunity to work on something she’s passionate about brought positivity to her life.

‘It really helped me with my mental health when I wasn’t working and gave me a sense of purpose everyday. I’ve always regretted not pursuing what I studied at university and creating this little business has almost lifted a bit of that guilt and given me a creative outlet.’

Amy Harris said the gig economy allowed her to pursue something she’s passionate about (Amy Harris)

So, what is the future like for the gig economy?

Dr Wood says this way of working has seen and will continue to see growth through the pandemic and beyond.

‘I think the gig economy will emerge from the pandemic even bigger than before with local gig work boosted by the growth of food and retail delivery and remote gig economy boosted by companies looking for more remote workers who can be engaged and controlled without needing to bring them on to the companies’ premises.’

‘Companies are also going to be hesitant to invest in permanent employees in these uncertain times.’

What’s clear is that as the gig economy asserts itself in a post-Covid world, the mental health of workers involved shouldn’t fall by the kerbside as a result.



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MLB mental health crisis: Inside relief pitching gig economy

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Ryan Buchter, 34, has spent almost half his life pitching in professional baseball. In those 15 years, Buchter has been traded four times, released three times, changed organizations 10 times, pitched for teams in 22 cities and only once spent a full season in the majors without being demoted or released. What his itinerant playing record does not show is its cost: a drinking problem, depression and mental health issues that left him so wounded he is speaking out because he knows his story is too prevalent among ballplayers.



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