Building workforce inclusivity with better employee benefits for gig workers
India’s gig workers are on the rise with new opportunities and better offerings for pursuing a part-time work schedule, as per their needs. According to ASSOCHAM, the gig-economy in India will grow to $455 billion by 2024 at a 17 percent CAGR. Taking cognisance of the fact, the government of India has already proposed new labour codes to ensure social security for gig workers.
A McKinsey report notes that up to 20-30% of the workforce in developed markets is engaged in independent work. India is still in a nascent stage of embracing flexible work as a mode of the operational workforce. Yet, a recent survey by a staffing company noted that a third of the 500+ organisations interviewed, expressed an interest in having at least 50% of its workforce flexible.
The factors responsible for a proliferation and expansion of the gig workforce are heavily incumbent on the rise of more and more consumer internet companies. Saas companies have opened gates for engineers and software developers to enter the gig workforce. This phenomenon has brought about the inclusion of white and grey collared workforce in the gamut of gig workers, who actually comprise a vast section of the technology talent pool today.
The future of work with Gen Z
How this talent pool prefers to work is fast changing. A boom in demand for workplace flexibility found pace with Gen Z, the largest generation the world has seen making up 32% of the global population. GreatPlaceToWork notes the Gen Z to be more conscious of systemic racism, hold non-traditional views of gender identity and hyper-aware of issues of intersectionality.
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It is clearly a shift from traditional workplace cultures and in fact, mode of work itself. This generation prefers to be more fluid and flexible to try new things and learn quickly, and is easily disappointed by hierarchical structures of growth. It is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for the emergence of gig workers.
In India, gig economy is largely defined by on ground gig workers employed by food aggregators, ecommerce firms and other delivery-dependent companies which comprise close to a million strong. Considering that there is a stark rise in online commerce amid the pandemic, this sector has been among the largest recruiters of blue-collar workers. However the pool is much larger.
A large number of budding internet companies are actively engaging with the gig economy, hiring professionals for short term projects through gig platforms, opening doors for newer professions too. For these gig workers, the earnings are proportional to the work they put in. For startups and SMEs, working with them saves a good buck in bonus, overtime, leaves etc. The question remains, so who is delivering social security, safety and mental well-being to them?
The grey areas of gig economy
Gig workers are generally classified by employers as 'self-employed' and/or 'individual' workers. Such misclassification carries serious penalties, risks, and consequences for employers including, but not limited to, non-compliance with applicable laws, litigation by the affected workers, back payment to the said misclassified workers, loss of revenue/tax for the government, loss of reputation, etc. Hence, these contractual and gig workers do not have access to the privileges and perks of a permanent employee.
Despite the gaps, this mass continues to grow, especially now. Post pandemic, hybrid work models have found acceptance even among large corporations and it is of great impact to the choices of the millennial and Gen Z workforce. Companies are also having a much more open view to employing LGBTQI+ individuals, accepting the role of diversity and inclusivity in building a healthy workplace.
Addressing the grey areas
With a global surge in gig economy jobs, businesses can no longer delay the process of extending benefits to this section of the workforce. While safety measures are taken with temperature checks and vaccination drives, it does not cover their overall health and well-being. Financial relief in the form of life and health benefits should help not only support this large population of workers but also ensure retention and improve their lifestyle for better productivity at work.
Employers who are engaging with the gig workforce should rope in benefits the way they do it for a full time employee. With archaic practices of corporate business, there has been many debates on how emerging companies can even think of paying for added benefits to their employees. Technology has paved the way for solving this problem.
Platforms with the ability to offer affordable and digitally enabled products have emerged to bridge the gap between employers and employees. Insurtech and fintech companies are playing a key role in addressing the challenges previously ignored regarding part time workers. Customisable programmes on subscription models are helping even small employers afford better benefits for their workforce.
What more can be done?
We need to see greater participation from the private sector employing gig and blue collar workers, and take the initiative to adopt employee healthcare for all classifications of employment including interns, part-time and freelance workers.
To address mental well-being and peace for workers, companies have created a flexible work environment. With the growing gig work force the need for their wellness & benefits also needs to be taken care of.
Digitisation enables faster, quicker access to employee health benefits. Creating a tech first environment for employees including gig workers, to avail social security and health benefits will help achieve this.
Offer more at less
Wellness and health benefits are becoming a non-negotiable element for retaining talent. During the pandemic, parental care and mental health support became a key concern for the gig workforce and was not addressed through traditional employee benefits. This is getting addressed with the new age tech enabled health platforms.
A comprehensive health package gives the gig workforce the required flexibility and security to continue delivering and remain dedicated to their jobs. Offering mental health and parental coverage helps companies prevent employees, both permanent and temporary workers from burn out. By availing and offering customised, packet size, subscription based benefit programs, small businesses can show their employees that they care.
The fiercely competitive and fast moving technology industry is demanding more and more from it’s workers, and it is only fair that companies acknowledge and address these challenges before it is too late. To grow as a successful business, new age employers need to immediately address the challenges suffocating its powerhouse, its people. The only way to earn your worker’s trust post pandemic is to offer attractive health and wellness benefits. The gold rush to having a protected and productive workforce, has already begun.