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Channel 4’s Dispatches Exposes Reality of the Gig Economy

In the last 12 months, interest in gig worker jobs including those with delivery services has increased.  Channel Four’s Dispatches programme tonight (12 April 2021) sees reporter Morland Sanders investigate the reality of gig work and its growing influence in the job market over the last 12 months.

National and local lockdowns have seen many of us stuck at home, and COVID-19 restrictions have forced restaurants and retailers to close their doors to customers. While high street traders have struggled, online delivery services have boomed during lockdown.  In specially commissioned research from one of the UK’s biggest job sites, Indeed.com, Dispatches uncovered a surge in searches for jobs in the gig economy between February 2020 and March 2021.  Searches for amazon delivery driver jobs increased by 500%, for Uber Eats 87% and for Deliveroo 30%.

Delivery drivers and couriers are under increased pressure to break the law in order to meet targets. 65% of those surveyed say they have broken the speed limit at work while a  delivery driver, speaking anonymously to Dispatches, reports delivering up to 400 parcels a day with no proper toilet breaks

The show also reveals 46% of gig workers reported being paid less than the National Minimum Wage,63% of gig workers say they have worked despite feeling too ill to do so and 81% had been physically or verbally assaulted at work; 86% say they have felt unsafe at work.

There are an estimated 30,000 workers on zero-hours contracts in the health service.  Working with the campaign group Zero Hours Justice, Dispatches has spoken to two such workers about their experience of being “surplus to requirements” when lockdown started in March 2020.

The programme looks set to be a damning exposure of the realities of gig economy work, and the detrimental impact it can have on individual workers.  There has been a lot of discussion about the gig economy lately, and with Europe on the verge of legislating for gig workers to be treated as employees, the UK government is coming under increasing pressure to ensure that all workers receive some minimum rights.

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