A voice for gig workers

John Ryan from Gigable talks to workingmums.co.uk about how his gig working platform works and how it provides additional rights and benefits for those on it.

John Ryan headshot

 

Gig workers are among the most insecure in a world where almost everything is insecure. workingmums.co.uk spoke to John Ryan, CEO and Founder of Ireland-based Gigable, a platform that provides gig workers and is aiming to drive up their pay and rights.

workingmums.co.uk:  How did Gigable come into being?

John Ryan [pictured above]: I first had the idea for Gigable when I was studying for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I was inspired by the companies I learned about, but also by a class trip to China where I witnessed the utility of mobile ‘super apps’ like WeChat for everyday tasks like making payments in stores. Before my MBA, I served in the military where I spent much of my career working within training and development, serving for a time as the training officer for a UN battalion in Lebanon. These two elements of my experience came together to inspire me to build a mobile app that had human potential at its core. When I looked around, I realised two things: 1. that there was very little to no innovation that was focussed on workers, and 2. that the gig economy was an exciting sector of society that had self-motivated and ambitious workers at its foundation. I believed then and believe now that gig workers deserve an app that is built with their empowerment in mind, and it was from this motivation that Gigable was born in 2018.

wms: How does Gigable work and how different is it to other gig working platforms?

JR: Gigable is focussed on providing gig workers with access to regularly scheduled shift work with multiple businesses in their area. This is quite different to other gig platforms where the platform largely directs the work on offer and workers are paid on a task-by-task basis. In our platform, workers work with one business for the duration of their shift, and often form strong reciprocal relationships with business owners because they work under their own name and identity in the platform. It’s a simple but refreshing approach to the space.

wms: How do you make the case for employers to improve what they offer gig workers? Have current labour shortages made this easier?

JR: We have long been promoting the best possible pay and conditions for gig workers, either through motivating our business partners to provide a guaranteed living wage through our “living wage initiative” or by our own provision of health and other insurance benefits to our active workers. For businesses, they want to trust the workers they get, and to have them come back again to work – so we always remind them that it is in their interest to pay well, be courteous to workers, and offer perks on the job like a free meal, for example. Of course, we are a marketplace, and the fact that gig workers are in high demand, and the supply is somewhat limited, means that pay has risen to attract the best workers. We are happy to see the market system we have in our platform work to improve pay for workers and we carefully watch how this develops.

wms: How have you developed your offer – do you regularly get feedback from gig workers and those who use them?

JR: For the past number of years we have been a customer and product-led company. That means we are constantly in touch with our business and worker community either through meetings, phone calls or surveys. We are delighted that we have utilised feedback as a core decision-making premise for how our platform has evolved, and we are always learning about what matters most and focusing on that.

wms: What difference does offering gigs based on shifts rather than hours make to gig workers?

JR: It makes a world of difference because it provides both predictability of earnings and reliability in terms of being able to earn at times that suit the workers. These factors are so crucial to gig workers yet are overlooked by other gig platforms.

wms: How important is knowing their hourly rate beforehand?

JR: Gigable was founded on three core values: transparency, independence and equal opportunity. To us, it is fundamentally important that transparency be promoted and supported on our platform, and it is only right that a worker – who is available and committed to work – should first know well in advance what they will earn for their work if they choose to accept it.

wms: How many employers use the top-up feature to increase pay and is this affected currently by the cost of living pressures?

JR: We are delighted that business owners have bought in to paying at least the living wage to workers on the platform – because it is the right thing to do but also because it benefits them to have a good rapport with the workers. As cost of living pressures rise we will keep a close eye on pay to ensure that we can provide updates and guidance to business owners, and also hear the feedback from our worker community.

wms: What online healthcare do you offer and is this popular?

JR: We offer digital GP and mental health services, as well as accident and injury protection and other insurance benefits to our gig workers. These have proven incredibly popular and are one of the main reasons gig workers join our platform or recommend us to a friend.

wms: How important is the two-way rating system?

JR: The two-way rating system is another extremely important transparency tool on our platform. We are a platform that connects independent workers with business owners, and to level the playing field it is only right that both parties receive a rating for their work.

wms: What is the uptake of family leave and other rights policies?

JR: Due to privacy protection reasons we can only share top line figures in terms of members accessing benefits. In terms of the health and other protections and benefits we offer, the most popular is the digital GP with 35% of our active members accessing this benefit, while 27% went for mental health support and 22% for family support services, including parental leave payments. In terms of the deals and discounts Gigable offer, there have been 435 deals redeemed. The top six most popular are: Circle K fuel card; Samsung; Shell fuel discount card; Adidas; Apple; and Asda.

wms: You are looking to expand into the UK – is this in response to demand and labour shortages? Do you see differences opening up between legislation affecting gig workers in the UK and EU?

JR: The UK is the closest market – both geographically and culturally – to the Republic of Ireland and we have had a presence here since 2020, but as a start-up during the pandemic chose to focus on our home market. The UK has a well-reported worker shortage and we believe businesses in the UK could really benefit from accessing the incredible community of gig workers on terms that work for both sides. Equally, work-life balance is hugely important to the UK worker, and as the economy evolves, with the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, we believe we can be a breath of fresh air in the space.

wms:  Matthew Taylor’s report on the future of work called for more rights for gig workers in the UK, but since appears to have been shelved. Do you think the UK is going backwards on gig workers’ rights?

JR: I wouldn’t say things are going backwards; if anything they are improving, but not because of added regulation. We have been living through extraordinary times for a number of years now and I would say that market dynamics are in the favour of gig workers which has helped drive up pay and opened up the competitive space for companies like ours to provide added benefits to workers. From our experience the most important thing to gig workers remains the total flexibility aspect and being paid well for their time. If you can hit these two pillars, while also providing health and other insurance as standard, you are satisfying the vast majority of concerns held by gig workers and making the space even more appealing than employment. So that’s what we are focussed on – providing the best of both worlds.

wms: What other areas of the economy could you see Gigable going into? Do you see it being used in professional sectors where gig working is becoming more common?

JR: Our platform is flexible to different sectors, but right now we are focused on the areas where there is the highest degree of worker scarcity and where businesses are most in need. From our perspective that is delivery and logistics, hospitality, cleaning, events and security work. These are also jobs that are the most accessible to the highest number of workers. In the future, we do foresee the potential to move into more office-related work, but right now we are focused on our core sectors.



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