Gig workers caught in ‘app trap’ without skills development, says think tank

Campaigners call for minimum gig wage and reform of government training scheme to avoid flexible careers becoming ‘unpredictable micro-chunks’

App-based work fragments gig workers’ careers into “unpredictable micro-chunks” and stops them focusing on the future, a report has said, calling on businesses such as Uber and Deliveroo to do more to help workers develop their careers.

The report, Better work in the gig economy, published by think tank Doteveryone, described gig economy jobs as “like quicksand”, where workers sometimes became trapped in insecure, piecemeal work and lacked the financial stability or time to develop the skills that will help them progress in their careers.

It called for app-based businesses to redesign their platforms and provide more stability to gig workers – which include roles such as graphic designers, beauticians and translators, as well as food delivery and ride-hailing apps – by guaranteeing a minimum wage, and providing human points of contact for workers and physical ‘help hotspots’ where workers can go to receive support and advice.

A statutory ‘minimum gig wage’, including an allowance to cover the statutory benefits such as sick pay enjoyed by employees, would also mean gig workers’ take-home pay after costs would be on parity with employed workers, the report said.

It also recommended that the government’s national retraining scheme – created to address the expected effects of automation on the economy – be adapted to support skills development.

Lizzie Crowley, skills policy adviser at the CIPD, supported the idea of providing gig workers access to the national retraining scheme by creating programmes tailored to individuals who may have a fragmented or irregular working schedule.

“Our research shows that gig workers are less likely to receive training than individuals on more secure employment contracts. There is a need to address that challenge,” she said.

Get more HR and employment law news like this delivered straight to your inbox every day – sign up to People Management’s PM Daily newsletter

The report recommended the provision of mentoring and ‘micro learning’ courses – designed to be completed across a number of short sessions – to give workers flexible learning opportunities, alongside support to help identify the transferable skills they develop through gigs.

John Williams, global marketing director at City & Guilds Group, said gig workers played an important role in making businesses more agile and adaptable to technological developments. But, he added, it was essential these workers received the right support and training to fill the skills gaps employers currently faced.

“With damaging skills gaps in any number of industries, we have to get training and development right for a highly flexible workforce,” he said. “As businesses across the world become increasingly reliant on this kind of [flexible] model, they must also become far more agile at delivering training that supports gig economy workers.”

The report also called for greater data transparency to help workers navigate their finances and show customers exactly where their money goes when they purchase services through an app.