The Consequences of Dependent Self-Employment for Workers’ Health, Wellbeing and Security.
Dependent self-employment (DSE) is a form of bogus self-employment in which ‘workers perform service for a business under a contract different from a contract of employment but depend on one or a small number of clients for the incomes and receive direct guidelines regarding how the work is done’ (ILO 2016: 36). In either case, workers in BSE are typically denied employment rights and social protections that are provided to those workers whose status as employees is beyond dispute. The growth of the ‘gig economy’, and in particular the development of platform companies such as Uber and Deliveroo, has led to increased awareness of the potential for ostensibly independently self-employed workers to enter relations of economic dependency that come to resemble employment relationships in important respects. The issue has become a matter of concern for trade unions, academic researchers and policy makers. In the UK, attention has tended to focus on status ambiguities related to the legal distinction between ‘workers’, ‘employees’ and the ‘self-employed’ and the ways in which workers in DSE lose out in relation to employment rights and social protections. This paper, by contrast, adopts a European-wide perspective and examines the potential consequences of DSE for two related sets of issues. The first concerns workers’ health and well-being and the second workers’ job prospects and job security. Drawing on data from the 2015 European Working Conditions Survey, the paper compares workers in DSE with those in employment relationships and those who are independently self-employed. We find that both workers in DSE and those in independent self-employment are more likely than employees to worry about work and to have worked when sick. However, independently self-employed workers tend to be more positive than employees with regard to how they view their job prospects and job security, whereas workers in DSE experience greater subjective insecurity in this regard. The paper concludes by discussing the policy implications of the findings.
Jason Heyes, Professor of Employment Relations, Lecturer in Employment Relations, Dragos Adascalitei and Research Associate, Stefanie Williamson, Sheffield University Management School.
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