The continuously changing labour market has required businesses to come up with new ways of working, with the focus being on flexibility.

The so-called “gig economy”, characterised by short-term contracts and freelance work has come under scrutiny recently with the well reported Uber, Hermes and Deliveroo cases shining the spotlight on whether workers’ rights are truly being reflected in the gig economy.

The continuously changing labour market has required businesses to come up with new ways of working, with the focus being on flexibility.

PWC has recently announced its “flexible talent” initiative allowing employees to choose their own working hours. Employees will now be permitted to state their skills and availability and PWC will then match them to the most appropriate projects, allowing them to work shorter weeks, or to work for only a few months at a time.

In a survey of 2,000 people commissioned by PWC, almost half said that flexible working and a good work-life balance were the most important factors when choosing a new job.

PWC is one of a number of organisations looking to embrace the gig economy, but to implement it in a way that protects workers’ rights and to ensure that people are treated fairly.

At present, many of the companies who operate in the gig sector claim that those who work for them are self-employed contractors and should not therefore enjoy the same benefits as workers or employees (such as the right to National Minimum Wage, holiday pay and sick pay). This stance has been challenged by the courts, with the most recent case of Pimlico Plumbers finding that its self-employed contractors were actually workers, entitled to enhanced rights.

This has undoubtedly caused reputational damage to those companies who operate in the gig economy, not to mention the expense involved in defending these legal challenges.

Perhaps PWC, by seeking to operate fairly in paying its flexible workers at the same rate as its permanent staff and offering the same benefits, is hoping to redefine the way in which the gig economy works and obtain a competitive advantage.

In the midst of the 24/7 online businesses and the advance of modern technology, working 9 to 5 is becoming less common.

In the age of smartphones, are we ever really switched off from work? This raises the question of work-life balance and whether it is healthy for the working day to stretch beyond office hours and percolate into personal time.

Earlier this year, it was determined that French companies must guarantee their employees a “right to disconnect” from technology in an attempt to put an end to the compulsive out-of-hours work email checking. In New York a bill has been put forward to make it illegal for employers to force their employees to respond to emails or instant messages outside of working hours. There are no similar suggestions in the UK at present but given that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their staff and to ensure that their work is limited to 48 hours when averaged over a 17 week reference period, this is likely to be something which employers need to become more mindful of. A common-sense approach is required to ensure that employees are given the tools needed to manage their own workloads and to ensure that working time does not impact too much on personal time.

For further information relating to the points raised in this article, please contact Kathryn Moorhouse or a member of our award-winning Employment Team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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