Call for greater rights for microworkers

A new report from Autonomy finds that microworkers are often paid less than the minimum wage, with nearly two thirds being paid less than four pounds an hour.

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Around 95% of UK microworkers – those doing gig work on digital platforms – earn below minimum wage for
the work, with almost two in three earning less than £4 an hour, according to a new study.

The study by think tank Autonomy found that a fifth of microworkers has no other paid work and more than half receive no pension from any of their work.

Microwork is a form of work on digital platforms in which short tasks are assigned to workers, who are paid piece wages for completing them. This can consist of coding data to teach algorithms, short translation tasks, surveys, tagging content and identifying images. The study says it has provided new opportunities for workers to participate in the labour market, but has been found to exacerbate labour market inequalities. Workers on the platforms are not classified as employees under labour law.

The report says microwork has increased because of Covid, with 36% of respondents reporting starting microwork during the pandemic. Almost 30% of microworkers spent at least 30 minutes on unpaid activities for every hour of paid work on the platform.

The report recommends that microworkers should be offered ‘finders fees’ and payment for pre-task tests so that all time ‘on the job’ is financially remunerated. It would also like to see ratings systems available for contractors, not only workers, so that bad employers within the system can be easily spotted.

And it says new messaging systems for workers should be legally mandated for each microwork site so that communication over key issues at work can be improved and a right to collective bargaining for microworkers, to sit alongside a ‘Fair Microwork Charter’, which would set out best practice for microwork employers.

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