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UK’s ‘alternative workforce’ unhappy with pay, instability and concerns about their future – and many want to unionise, finds Ceridian report

Lisa Sterling - Ceridian

Dissatisfied members of the UK’s ‘alternative workforce’ have cited lack of pay, benefits and job security as their most significant concerns in new research – but plenty of other respondents praise flexibility and ‘interesting’ work on offer.

The 2020 Pulse of Talent report released today by global human capital management (HCM) company Ceridian asked alternative workers across the UK about their reasons for choosing this type of work, their level of engagement, the reasons behind their satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and where they see themselves in the future.

Conducted by independent research provider Nielsen on behalf of Ceridian, the research defines ‘alternative’ workers as gig economy workers, freelancers, and contract workers. The research also asked workers for their views on some of the key topics making the news recently, such as their level of support for unionisation and the effects of alternative work on their mental health.

The good
One of the key findings is that many alternative workers in the UK are satisfied with their employment arrangement. 76% of respondents report being “somewhat” or “extremely” satisfied with their current gig or contract role. The top reason given among respondents who reported being satisfied is that their work is interesting (43%), followed by flexibility in hours or work location (37%). Having good relationships with colleagues and fellow employees (30%) tied for third alongside having a good relationship with their manager(s) (also 30%).

The less good
Less positively, of the alternative workers who said they were dissatisfied with their current gig or role, the top reason given was low pay: 54% of survey respondents said the primary cause for their work dissatisfaction is “I don’t make good pay.” The second most common cause of dissatisfaction was poor benefits (41%).  The third most common reason was that respondents “don’t feel secure in [their] job,” accounting for 38% of dissatisfied survey respondents.

That alternative workers are unhappy with their benefits is not wholly surprising, given that the number of UK Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that offer even their full-time employees benefits is quite low, with only 26.3% of SMEs offering flexible working arrangements to all of their employees.[i] The lack of benefits is even more pronounced when looking at Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), with less than one in five SMEs offering this benefit to all their employees.[ii]

A surprising future – and a desire to unionise
Despite dissatisfaction around challenges and uncertainty, more than half (54%) of the alternative workers surveyed plan to continue along this path for the foreseeable future. And the trend toward long-term gig work increases with age: 45% of respondents aged 19-29 answered this way, compared with nearly three-in-four (73%) of those 50 and older.

Despite many stating that they would remain in the alternative workforce in the long term, nearly half of alternative workers surveyed had serious concerns about the future. 44% of survey respondents said they were “moderately” or “extremely” worried about having adequate work in the next two years.

Asked whether they believe gig workers should unionise, 69% of the UK alternative workers surveyed answered “yes.” The top reason given by some distance was to negotiate higher wages (47%), followed by ensuring greater equality (20%), and better job security (13%).

What does this mean for employers?
All of this begs the question of how employers should best engage with the alternative workforce to help promote job satisfaction, especially given the ongoing conversations in the UK around the rights of workers in the gig economy.

Alternative workers of all types enjoy the flexibility of their work situation. Building flexibility into workplace culture for all employees, where possible, will make it easier for alternative workers to integrate into the existing culture. It will also make companies more attractive if freelancers working in this talent pool are tapped for open full-time roles.

Lisa Sterling, Chief People & Culture Officer, Ceridian, comments: “There is a fine line being drawn between the experiences alternative workers value and their desire to have the same advantages as full-time employees. The real question is, ‘Can we provide all people an experience that inspires, motivates, engages, and creates trust?’ Doing so requires us to reset expectations and take a new approach to workplace experiences.”

Sterling adds: “The convergence of work and life, the influx of information, and the rapid pace of change has created negative health implications for people of all ages. Organisations should take the time to understand how job dissatisfaction may be affecting their people and prioritise addressing those issues over building a comprehensive wellness programme.”

 

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