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RR1143 - Understanding the health and safety implications of the gig economy

Growing numbers of people in Great Britain are working in the gig economy – it is an upwards trend that is anticipated to continue. As the regulator of workplace safety and health, it is important that HSE understands the implications of gig work – both positive and negative. This report describes a literature review to gather evidence about the size, characteristics and health and safety implications of the gig economy. The aim was to improve HSE’s understanding, not to develop a definition, of the gig economy.

The literature review’s findings are as follows. Gig economy work was found to be characterised by short-term informal working relationships. This work is generally on-demand, obtained via an on-line platform and delivered, and paid for, on a task-by-task basis. It is casual, unpredictable, irregular, contingent, and temporary, with the possibility of increased work intensification. Determining the size of the gig economy, and identifying typical number of hours worked, is challenging. Gig economy workers in GB are estimated to be around 2.8 million. There is a possibility that for many the hours are excessively high, and that gig work is used to supplement other income. For some, gig work offers benefits such as variety and flexibility. However, the main health risks associated with participation in the gig economy were found to be work-related stress and the development of other mental health issues. This study has provided a useful working description of the gig economy to help inform HSE policy.

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Updated 2020-01-07