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"Two sides of the same coin" – rulings on the status of gig economy workers in UK and California

22nd March 2021

23rd March 2021

Author : John T. Fleming, Ideas & Design Group, USA, co-author of Ultimate Gig

The expression "two sides of the same coin" is often used to describe a common situation with very uncommon and opposite points of view.

When the UK Supreme Court recently ruled that Uber drivers were employees and not independent contractors, the debate, learning, and importance of the decision reached new levels of importance throughout the world because the gig economy is the coin. On one side of the coin is the UK Supreme Court decision; on the other side are voters in the state of California, who, through November 2020’s Proposition 22, defined Uber drivers as independent contractors.

The coin now flips to other mature markets globally, which appear to be struggling with how they will classify their gig workers. The coin may land on the side of the UK in some places; however, in others, it may land on the side aligned with California's Proposition 22.

The gig economy is a new phenomenon we explore in our book, Ultimate Gig. A phenomenon grows so rapidly and attracts and engages people so quickly that traditional forms of research and reporting cannot keep pace with the speed of change.

This rapid change can create positive transformation. For example, the quality of customer service in transportation has improved so dramatically with the expansion of transportation gigs that traditional taxi cab companies are having difficulty adapting. Customers now expect to use their mobile phones to hail a ride nearly instantaneously while also knowing where their driver is at every moment of the journey and when they can expect to arrive at their destination.

In the UK and US alike, consumers saw another positive outcome from transportation gigs during the pandemic. Drivers for transportation gigs made it possible for many restaurants to deliver food when the pandemic prevented people from dining in groups in special places – helping consumers enjoy their favourite meals and helping restaurants maintain an income while their dining rooms were closed.

The debate surrounding gigs is not about quality; the real debate is about worker protection and who provides traditional worker benefits. In Ultimate Gig, we explore this issue. We have predicted the gig economy's growth to create a scenario in which all of its stakeholders will begin to come together to solve the challenges associated with a new form of work.

The gig economy is not an attempt to emulate the traditional work models of the past 100 years. Like the sharing economy, informal economy, and digital economy, the gig economy transforms and redefines the word "work" itself.

In the gig economy, workers enjoy new freedoms – to be able to work when and how they want. The worker decides. Flexibility is an uncommon freedom when it comes to work. Parents taking care of children while also needing to supplement the family income, students needing to cover the cost of education, and retirees who were forced to leave the traditional wok model sooner than they desired all need the freedom and availability of flexible work. The gig economy fills this need.

In Ultimate Gig, you will learn so much more about this new revolution in how work is being transformed in mature economies throughout the world!


Want to know more about the gig economy? Ultimate Gig by John T. Fleming and Lauren Lawley-Head is out now. Save 30% with code ULTIMATEGIG when you buy direct from the Emerald Bookstore. The authors also run Ultimate Gig Resources which provides further insight and ongoing updates on all aspects of the gig economy.