Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 16 June 2021.
The digital economy plays a central role in most people’s daily lives, something that has greatly increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only do we increasingly use the internet to access services and purchase products, but a rapidly rising number of people rely on it for their work.
One of the most visible demonstrations of this has been the growth of the ‘gig’ economy, where people work on short term contracts with flexible hours, and are paid for the completion of tasks, rather than for the time they work. Many of the jobs in this sector include people being paid to deliver packages, takeaway food couriers and minicab drivers. The term gig is used in this sense, as it is for musicians who get paid after they perform. In 2019 around 4.4million people worked regularly in the gig economy, and estimates suggest that by next year that number could have risen to over 7 million.
For many people their work in the gig economy is in their spare time around their normal working hours, but for about one in three people it is their main or only source of income. Some find the flexibility of working as a freelance driver or courier, possibly for several different delivery apps, is a good source of extra income. However, for others it can lead to a series of low paying jobs, often below the national minimum wage, with very few in work benefits, like holiday entitlements and protection insurance as a result of injury at work.
Some gig economy employers, like Just Eat, treat their team as employees, others do not.
Should there be common minimum standards of employment?
With so many people now working in the gig economy it’s time we looked at this sector, and question whether there should be common minimum standards of employment for everyone. Is this really technology delivering a revolution in flexible working, or a means for wealthy technology companies to get away without paying the kinds of employment costs normal businesses do for people who regularly work for them.
Whilst in the gig economy you can choose when you work, unlike other forms of part time work you won’t know how much you’ll be paid, because there is no minimum rate per hour.
You get paid for completing tasks, but if you are working at a quiet time, there will be a lot of unpaid waiting time. When it is busy the amount of work someone gets may depend on the amount of work they have done before, and their customer rating.
In truth most companies do not explain to their staff how the ranking mechanisms work on their platforms. This can lead to a system where rather than working flexibly, people feel that they are effectively always on standby.
I know many constituents have also contacted me about disruptions over the past few weeks to the bin collections in the Folkestone and Hythe District.
I have raised this with the council who in turn have been working with the contractor Veolia to get this issue resolved as soon as possible.
You can notify the council if your bin waste has not been collected through its website, but also now by contacting Veolia directly. You can call Veolia on 02035672468 between 10am and 4pm Mondays to Fridays.