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The latest Zurich SME Risk Index has revealed that 26% of SMEs have hired a gig economy worker at least once. Gig economy workers are freelancers or those on short term contracts for one or more businesses.

The people who hire gig workers have said that flexible workers are important to their business. 70% said that gig economy workers are vital to a company’s profitability.

10% said that 90% of their workforce is made up of gig workers. 41% said around a quarter of their workers are too.

Working practices

Employers were asked to describe working practices from the point of view of a gig worker. 58% said working on a gig basis provided flexibility. 34% said that it provided new opportunities and 28% said it was time efficient.

However, the survey also does suggest that employers are aware of the downsides to gig work. 52% said that gig work lacks security and 20% say that gig work can be unfair to workers. 27% went one step further and said that gig work can be exploitative.

 

The downsides for bosses

The survey also showed that there are downsides for employers as well as the gig workers themselves.

The price of flexibility is a lack of work security. Just as an employer can miss payments or make unreasonable demands, a freelancer could just as easily take the money and run or turn in work that’s not of a high standard. Unless there’s a solid contract in place, then this is a possibility that both parties need to prepare for.

40% said that they’re concerned that the casual nature of gig work can lead to a less dedicated workforce or as 30% say, a less motivated workforce. Permanent employees in a business may be more motivated to help the business whereas freelancers might be more focused on their own business.

None of this means that employers should beware freelancers or that they’re going to turn in bad work. It’s important to shop around, look at samples and speak to a freelancer first to see if they’re right for your business.

Despite concerns, most SMEs have a positive outlook when it comes to hiring freelancers. 38% said that hiring freelancers gives them the opportunity to manage their workforce capacity.

Head of SME proposition at Zurich, Paul Tombs said: “With so many UK SMEs employing gig economy workers, it would be a mistake to characterise the entire gig economy as an exploitative tool that only benefits employers.

“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.”

“While politicians and the media voice concerns that gig economy work is about maximising profits and manipulating staff, when we speak to business owners, it is clear that the majority associate it with flexibility and opportunity. If the gig economy has sprung up as an imperfect solution to the increasing demand for flexible work, then a review of the system should focus on reforms that maximise the benefits for all parties rather than descending into a blame game.”

 

Have you ever hired a gig worker? Would you recommend hiring them to other SMEs? Let us know what you think!

 

About The Author

Kara Copple

An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.

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