Written by Alex Fleming - Managing Director at Adecco Retail

Much has been written about the gig economy and how it will change the way we think about employment, increasing collaboration and innovation, giving workers the freedom to follow their dream careers.

The number of self-employed workers has risen dramatically in recent years. From less than 9% in 1975 the figure was 12% by the 2008 crash, but in the years since then a similar jump has been made to nearly 16% according to the Office for National Statistics.

There are genuine benefits for employers here. Not only does it provide access to specialist skills for short periods of time, candidates are being used at an affordable rate without having the commitment of offering a permanent contract.

However, a number of recent stories also suggest that employers should be wary when engaging with workers in this manner.

Uber, the taxi hiring service, has been in court in the UK with two drivers claiming they are entitled to permanent employee benefits – specifically sick pay and earning the minimum wage. Uber argues that the drivers are self-employed and are able to work as often as they like whilst the drivers claim they do not have a choice.

Justin Bowden, national secretary of the GMB union (who brought the case) said: "The issue here is not about taking away the flexibility… but the high degree of control that Uber exercises over its drivers.”

Although the first case in the UK, last month the firm agreed $7.5m to settle a lawsuit in the United States over background checks.

Parcel firm Hermes has also reportedly been paying it’s couriers an hourly rate that is below the national minimum wage, whilst self-employed delivery drivers for Deliveroo have a clause in their contracts which says they cannot take the firm to an employment tribunal if they are unhappy with their current status.

Alex Fleming says:
There is clearly huge value in the gig economy both for businesses and workers. Nevertheless, employers must take more time to understand how they manage these types of contracts to suit both the needs of the business and its workforce. These contracts simply will not work if one party isn’t satisfied and in a market where candidate appears to be king, it’s important for businesses to recognise that whilst they reap the benefits from hiring independent workers, it’s crucial their needs are met too.