The gig economy is one of the primary markets for those workers in the USA who are young or are without recognised qualifications. According to Reuters, more than 60 million workers operated within the gig economy sphere over the past 12 months, whether that’s as delivery or taxi drivers, movers, taskers or couriers. The largely loose nature of the gig economy means that it can be a bit difficult to approach at first. However, workers can benefit if equipped with a strong understanding of their rights, what challenges they might face in the job, and how they can progress in their career.
Fundamental employment rights
Despite the fact that their work is often in its nature insecure, gig workers do have the same rights as any other worker. Where their treatment differs from contracted or permanently appointed staff is in the amount of remuneration they can expect from leave, sickness, or disability. Crucially, however, it’s important to balance the impact of any earnings from benefits, such as disability, with the amount of hours worked in a week, in order to present a full and proper picture to the tax authorities. Change is on the horizon, too. According to Human Rights Watch, mooted changes that are set to be put into action by the Biden administration will clearly outline the hours and expectations of gig workers. While the HRW asserts that this will be a negative for gig workers, it’s important to consider the changes in relation to your own role and come to a decision.
Challenges on the horizon
Unfortunately, the nature of gig work means that when demand runs out, work runs out. Permanent posts will often account for some ebb and flow in business, and will look to improvement and project management changes during low seasons. In the gig economy, the work simply won’t be there. Furthermore, as Michigan Ross claims the COVID-19 pandemic showed, large-scale disruptions will still demand that gig workers get out and about even if wider society is unable to support – consider, for instance, bike shops shutting down, or a lack of mechanics.
Gig work doesn’t offer clear career progression, but that doesn’t mean you won’t advance through work. To the contrary, experienced gig workers will start building client bases themselves, and will start to practice skills that become honed over years of work. Developing expertise is exactly what any freelancer has to focus on, gig workers included. Crucial to making this work for you, according to Forbes, is working with contractors to look for development opportunities, and spending time after work to reflect on learning and experience in a meaningful way.
Regulation promises to shake up the gig economy – for better, or for worse. A new standard will be important, however, and instructive in how to go about managing work within the industry. The key factor is that gig workers do have the same rights as anyone else – and with some creative thinking, the chance to advance, too.
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