There are many different opinions on the Gig economy as a structure for work. On the positive side, it allows an unregistered marketplace, where people can decide for themselves what they want to buy and sell. It allows individuals who may not have access to specific work to cut through the middle man and sell their abilities directly to the buyer. It allows people to make extra income through leveraging their assets, such as their car, home, lawn mower, brain or own physical labour. It allows an unregulated flow of work and is an entrepreneurs wonderland!
So what is the ‘Gig Economy’ – it is where workers may work on short term contracts for multiple employers; no commitment to ongoing work; can be piece work and usually involves some sort of digital intervention such as an app; website etc.
In Gig work, the workers often assume the responsibility for supplying the tools of the job – like their car; home or work tools. Although it is talked about to varying degrees, in reality only a tiny proportion of the workforce engages in this type of work, but undoubtedly this will grow.
The jobs don’t change: a driver still drives, a gardener still gardens and a typist still types.What changes is how the work is organised.
Technology has driven this change as ‘gig’ work has been around since the cottage industry pre industrial revolution; there has always been piece work and agency driven work relationships. However, where now the ‘instigator’ of the relationship may be a website or app, there is a less distinct linear line between bosses and labour. Indeed, Uber has argued that they are only the suppliers of a website and not employers of drivers at all. They have actually claimed that they work for the drivers, not the other way around.
So Gig work is nothing new, but the application of technology is. What do employers and employees have to be aware of when becoming involved in gig work?
Employers need to be aware of the legal responsibilities in Australia when you employ workers and no matter what you call the relationship, if it is one of master/servant, it more than likely will be classified as an employment relationship and you will be held responsible for not meeting your obligations.
Globally this can be seen in the amount of Uber drivers raising claims to be classified as employees.
Interestingly the Fair Work Commission, Unions and AirTasker are apparently moving towards the set-up of some mediation systems overseen by the Fair Work Commission. Supposedly the agreement commits AirTasker to uphold award wages, instigate worker’s compensation insurance and WHS standards for jobs.
For an employee, as a gig worker, you have no protections – it is an unregulated marketplace. You have no recourse to minimum wages or the protections afforded an employee unless you can prove that your relationship is actually an employment relationship.
Additionally, we note that the ATO are continually addressing tax issues that may arise from your participating in the gig economy. You need to be aware that if you provide ride-sourcing services for a fare; complete jobs or errands for payment or rent a room in your house you could have tax and GST implications.
Slowly but surely regulators will catch up with the Gig economy, so in the meantime, in whatever way you partake, just be aware of any contraindications before you get too heavily involved in the positive effects of the drug.
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