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January 7th, 2022 | STERLING

How to Create Safe and Happy Gig Worker Communities

How to create safe and happy gig worker communities

The gig talent pool – which had been expanding pre-Covid – has boomed over the last two years or so, as workers look for more flexibility in their career and those displaced by the pandemic turn to gig opportunities to secure much-needed income. All of which helps reflect the £3.3bn growth in the food sector in particular in 2020.

While the gig model may be increasingly utilised by employers and desired by workers, engaging and retaining individuals, at a time when there are a record number of job vacancies, isn’t without its struggles, particularly when it comes to safety and compliance.

Safe worker communities start with background screening

By definition, a gig worker may move from gig to gig, meaning that they move from one business to another quickly – or work for more than one platform at a time. But the temporary nature of their role can also prove to be a compliance challenge for the employer. The screening process will usually occur in the initial onboarding session, with re-screening at timely intervals often advisable in many instances. For gig businesses the sheer scale and regularity of the checks needed can seem daunting, but for the safety of the worker and the public, and business reputation, they are a necessity.

As experts in employment screening and background checks, we know all too well that the intricacies of the process can raise concerns around the time it will take to get a gig worker through their screening and ready to start working. Understandably, as a business, you need the onboarding process to be quick, but it is perhaps even more important for the gig worker that the process is as quick and easy as possible – after all, time is quite literally money for the gig community. However, to achieve long-term success in a talent shortage you can’t cut corners.

Making use of modern technologies such as Sterling’s UK Right to Work ID Verification can help speed up hiring while improving verification accuracy and mitigating the risk of a bad hire – a serious consideration for all employers, as failure to carry out the correct checks could result in drastic consequences that include fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. In response to modern-day demands, Sterling’s UK right to work verification technology enables the candidate to complete the process with a mobile device, supports the candidate and guides them carefully through the process.

For an employer, having a robust screening strategy in place that isn’t burdensome for gig workers demonstrates that your business cares about the safety of its people and customers. Get it right, and background checks won’t be a barrier to gig worker attraction and onboarding. Gig businesses that do this really well will not only provide a seamless background screening experience for their worker, but will also see the direct benefits to their brand.

How to maintain happy gig communities

Safety and compliance are, of course, a must when creating a gig community. However, the need to retain these individuals is also vital for the businesses that depend on them. If they have a negative experience with your brand, they’re unlikely to want to return. And with demand for skills at an all time high and onboarding costs potentially running into the thousands, pushing potentially highly valuable resources away from your brand due to a bad onboarding or screening process could be detrimental to business growth plans. It’s also worth noting that as 44% of independent workers find opportunities through word of mouth or through peers, a bad experience could put others off working for your brand as well.

So, assuming a worker has been seamlessly onboarded, what should a gig business then consider when it comes to retaining them? One approach many such organisations are increasingly taking is to better understand the challenges faced by their workforce and implement measures to address them. It is with good reason that gig worker rights have hit the headlines in recent years. After all, those workers have historically been vulnerable when it comes to the type of protections that full-time employees in ‘regular’ positions are able to appreciate as a matter of course. Should gig workers really accept the flexibility of their work and forgo protection, or should they accept the inflexibility of formal employment in exchange for basic benefits?

As changes to legislation come into place and businesses begin to better understand the wants and needs of their workers, it shouldn’t be a choice between the two.

It’s clear that gig economy workers want the same protections and rights as employees, with 94% requesting insurance, 83% requesting sick pay and 80% wanting accident pay. Listening to workers and giving them what they want through organisations such as Collective Benefits should play a key part of a thriving gig business.

As with more traditional employers, gig businesses need to be more conscious of the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of their workers – especially in light of the huge impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 15% of independent workers using Collective Benefits have suffered an injury in the last 12 months, and nearly 14% have suffered mental health problems as a result of work. A framework to better support self-employed workforces which includes protections and benefits such as sick pay, mental health support, access to financial education and more is likely to result in happier long-term gig communities: 96% of workers with access to Collective’s programme are highly satisfied, and 88% are more likely to recommend their platform. In turn, the gig businesses can expect to see happier and more loyal workers, and therefore happier end-users of their service.

In summary then, the secret is simple… create safer workforces from the outset with a robust background screening program and follow up with a long-term framework of support to keep those worker communities stronger, more resilient and ultimately, happier.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.