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Workers prefer permanent jobs despite rapid rise of freelancing

Four out of five workers would rather have a permanent job than be their own boss in a freelance or contract role, according to a new study by the ADP Research Institute.

The ADP Workforce View 2020 Volume Two post-Covid-19 report explores how employees feel about current issues in the workplace and the future of work, and whether the pandemic has changed their perspectives, drawing on surveys of more than 11,000 workers in six countries, including the UK.

Even though the gig economy has boomed, it found that many workers believe that a permanent job is preferable for a host of reasons including regular hours, better pay, timely payments, and the ability to get credit. The research also finds no sign so far that the impact of Covid-19 has significantly altered the attitudes of either regular employees or contractors.

The appeal of contract work remains as strong as it was before the pandemic: two in five gig workers (38%) say it is their preference to work this way now, compared to 35% pre-pandemic. Contractors rate gig work higher than permanent employment for flexibility, the ability to balance personal and family needs, enjoyment and control over what they work on.

Jeff Phipps, managing director of HR software and solutions company ADP, comments: “As uncertainty prevails, businesses themselves may fuel the gig economy by opting to employ more gig workers, an attractive alternative to the risks of employing staff full-time. 

“Some people may see working for more than one employer as a way to spread their sources of income and mitigate employment risk. Individuals may look to supplement their income with additional work or take on multiple freelance roles. At the same time, employers are also starting to offer their employees the option of a four-day work week which aims to increase productivity and flexibility.”

Hard choices for gig workers

Compared to their employed colleagues, gig workers say they work for eight hours per week for free on average compared to seven for the average employee. More than one in five work 11+ hours of unpaid overtime weekly, while 18% of employees say the same.

Despite official recommendations for non-essential workers to stay at home during Covid-19 lockdowns, 57% of gig workers report feeling pressure to come into work at some point versus 53% of employed workers. Gig workers are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace. Almost two in five report feeling discriminated against at work, compared to one in three of their employed colleagues.

Phipps says: “Given that many gig workers are operating on an hourly or daily rate basis, it’s concerning to see how much overtime they are giving away for free. If the value they deliver is to be properly quantified and appreciated, better systems may need to be put in place to monitor their time.

“Prompt and accurate payments also matter hugely to gig workers who often have to wait far longer than employees do to be paid. Businesses that use freelancers and contractors could boost goodwill by ensuring they have suitable HR and payroll systems in place to supervise and support them, just as they would any other member of their team.” Read the full report here.

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