According to a survey carried out for the TUC by the University of Hertfordshire, so-called platform work is being used to supplement other forms of income with UK workers increasingly likely to patch together a living from multiple different sources.

The term “platform work” covers a wide range of jobs that are found via a website or app — such as Uber, Handy, Deliveroo or Upwork — and accessed using a laptop, Smartphone or other internet-connected device.

Tasks include taxi driving, deliveries, office work, design, software development, cleaning and household repairs.

The TUC found that 15.3% of the working age population surveyed — equivalent to nearly 7.5 million people — have undertaken platform work at some point, with younger workers by far the most likely to work in the gig economy.

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of intensive (at least once a week) platform workers are aged between 16 and 34.

Overall, nearly one in 10 (9.6%) working-age adults surveyed now work via gig economy platforms at least once a week, compared to around one in 20 (4.7%) in 2016.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The explosion of the gig economy shows that working people are battling to make ends meet. Huge numbers are being forced to take on casual and insecure platform work — often on top of other jobs”.

Ursula Huws, professor of labour and globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire, suggested that, in a period when wages have been stagnant, people are turning to the internet to top up their earnings.

“We see the Uber drivers and food delivery workers on our streets every day”, she pointed out. “But they’re only a small proportion of gig workers. They’re outnumbered by an invisible army of people working remotely on their computers or Smartphones or providing services in other people’s homes.”

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

From an employer’s perspective, having staff use multiple platforms to supplement their income may not initially seem too concerning. However, these outside commitments can quickly create problems of which employers need to be aware.

Working time limits, rest periods and burn-out all need to be taken into consideration as well as how this could impact overall productivity.

While some employers may try to ban staff from working elsewhere at the same time, this is unlikely to be well received. Instead, employers would do well to embrace the growing shift towards side-gigs and support staff with additional work commitments to ensure they remain an asset to the organisation.

Last reviewed 10 July 2019