The growth of the gig economy and self-employment is leaving workers significantly under-protected and benefits need to adapt to changes in the workplace, new research shows.
More than 7.6 million currently are estimated to be either self-employed or working in the gig economy where people are paid for short-term employment via digital platforms – Government data shows around 4.8 million are self-employed with 2.8 million working in the gig economy over the past 12 months.
A new study conducted by MetLife among Employee Benefit Consultants (EBCs) found that 54 per cent believe the UK’s changing work patterns are a significant growth area to help address unmet protection needs and prevent millions of workers facing financial challenges should illness or injury mean they are unable to work or, should the worst happen. However, they believe the industry is behind the curve in developing solutions relevant to groups of workers such as the self-employed and those employed on permanent contracts who are not covered by group risk.
Around 57 per cent of EBCs would support legislation to extend workplace pensions auto-enrolment or group life assurance to cover the self-employed earning above a certain income (the Department for Work and Pensions is currently testing a number of approaches designed to increase pension saving among the self-employed). EBCs recognise they and providers have to change – 67 per cent say benefit communications have to be enhanced and segmented for different age groups to ensure employees are aware of and understand how their benefits can work for them.
Adrian Matthews, Employee Benefits Director, MetLife UK said,
Changes in the world of work are reshaping how companies operate and that needs to be reflected by the Group Risk industry. One key area that could be addressed is people employed on permanent contracts who are facing modern-day challenges that are very different to the working environment when traditional benefits products were conceived.
Benefits should form a core element of an employer’s value proposition and can be powerful in attracting and retaining employees. But employers need support in communicating the benefits they offer and providers and advisers can help them, making benefits communications part of everyday working lives and not just a once a year event.