HR · 15 May 2017

A quarter of small firms dependent on short-term gig economy workers

gig economy workers
A majority of small business owners accepted flexible employment created insecure work
Over one in four small UK business owners have employed short-term or freelance staff in the last 12 months, as new research demonstrated the growing use of gig economy workers.

Survey findings from insurer Zurich’s SME Risk Index, of over 1, 000 business founders, uncovered a growing dependence on flexible work to enable smaller firms to grow.

The study revealed a largely positive response from employers of the experiences in hiring short-term staff. Over two-thirds of employers cited gig economy workers as vital to their company’s profitability.

For one in ten business owners, short-term and freelance workers comprised 90 per cent of their entire workforce.

Overall, almost 60 per cent of all employers cited the model as flexible for businesses. However, a majority accepted gig economy work lacked security for workers, while over a quarter suggested it was easy to exploit.

As the debate surrounding the workplace rights of gig economy workers starts to affect the way some of the largest on-demand companies operate, a number of smaller employers did highlight a negative impact of short-term staff.

Some two in five owners were concerned temporary or contracted work created a less dedicated workforce, while almost a third said motivation had suffered in the workplace.

Commenting on the number of gig economy workers taken on by smaller firms, Paul Tombs, head of SME Proposition at Zurich, said future policy’should consider the benefits enjoyed by many temporary employees.

it would be a mistake to characterise the entire gig economy as an exploitative tool that only benefits employers, Tombs said in a statement.

‘self-employment is on the rise and demonstrates an increasing demand for flexible work which is beginning to shape the way that businesses think about workforce management.”

Following pressure froma cross-party group of MPs, courier firm Deliveroo recently updated its contract for gig economy workers to give riders greater flexibility for who they work for.



Praseeda Nair is an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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