COVID-19 has brought great change to the workplace. Prior to the pandemic outbreak, there was a rapidly increasing adoption and acceptance of contractors in workplaces – employers needed flexible access to talent, and workers sought greater control of their careers. Aon’s research discovered that almost 50% of all B2B and B2C gig workers have been gig workers for three years or more – suggesting it is a career choice and not a temporary solution.
However, COVID-19 has exposed the potential vulnerabilities which stem from the gig economy. We take a look at how employers can provide support for gig workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Aon’s 2020 Gig Economy report, more than half of gig economy workers are worried about their future and finances. In the most responsive cases, we have seen businesses step in to provide some form of financial protection for gig workers if they are unable to work due to COVID-19 (such as 14 days’ sick pay). The pandemic has highlighted the widespread lack of financial resilience across the UK workforce, not just for gig workers but also for traditional workers – echoing the headline statistics we often see in the news on the state of personal finances; 20% cannot come up with £1,000 in an emergency, 1 in 10 as in problem debt and 50% cannot afford to save as much as they would like12. An emphasis on financial wellbeing across the entire workforce will help improve the financial outlook for all individuals; an inclusive approach could include financial education seminars, a broader range of workplace savings solutions or related benefits such as financial protection insurances, access to responsible lending companies to support people with debt challenges or financial wellbeing apps.
The pandemic has also exposed a greater need to embrace flexibility in the workplace – from companies reducing overheads to workers seeking flexibility (especially relevant for those juggling care responsibilities). When considering their approach to flexible working, employers should consider the needs of their whole workforce. This is especially pertinent when you factor in that gig workers may choose more flexible work because they want greater control over their working hours; there may be additional demands on their time which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aon’s research also uncovered that only 31% of gig workers are offered benefits within their contract, perhaps understandable since gig workers fall outside of the regular ‘employee benefits’ environment. However, in ongoing unprecedented times when all workers regardless of the type of employment contract they possess are facing a level of uncertainty, and supporting individual wellbeing is widely recognised as being so important, businesses should consider doing more. Invariably, this can have an impact on their health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst it may not be appropriate for employers to pivot or adapt the vast majority of their benefits, any COVID-19 related benefits – such as specific COVID testing, or targeted remote working support based around the key dimensions of wellbeing; emotional, financial and increasingly important social – could be extended to include their entire workforce. Now more than ever it is important that businesses create a culture which fosters a strong workplace community addressing workforce morale, trust and individual needs.
Creating an open and supportive culture is one of the key components to workforce wellbeing – and it’s not just employee benefits which promote this. Heightened uncertainty due to the pandemic may disproportionately impact gig workers (who may have greater concerns about job stability or the lack of employee benefits). Employers must consider this and cater for it; whether its financial wellbeing, working flexibility or improved health benefits, an inclusive approach now may pay dividends later – with a more engaged workforce, who are happier and healthier at work.
2Aon DC and Financial Wellbeing Study, 2018
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