Portfolio working: a growing trend?

As a new study shows more people were working multiple jobs during Covid, does the law need to change to reflect how people are working nowadays?

Young woman working on computer at home


A study last week highlighted the growing phenomenon of the portfolio job ie doing more than one job. The Department of Education study found two-thirds of workers are either taking on multiple jobs or are planning to do so, with 37 per cent more people now having a portfolio career than before the pandemic. Of those who took up a portfolio career, the study found that 22 per cent said that the main driver was the desire to do something different, while 17 per cent said the desire to retrain was a factor in their decision.

Money is obviously another key issue, as is flexibility and a desire not to put all your eggs in one basket. Certainly in my own case doing more than one part-time or freelance job has enabled me to earn a full-time wage while getting enough flexibility to pick up the kids and go to after school events. Of course, that wouldn’t be necessary if full-time jobs were more flexible and the hope is that Covid will move us some way towards this, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

What it does suggest is an interest in more part-time jobs so that people are able to do other things, whether doing something different or training for a new career move. Yet, despite the emphasis on flexible working during Covid, part-time roles often seem in short supply. Flexible in Covid times has become synonymous with working from home and that is not the flexibility many people want or can enjoy depending on their role.

Yet, in my view, those who have a ‘portfolio career’ can offer an employer more than if they simply did one job – there is, for example, the cross-pollination of ideas from one role to another, the greater sense of energy that comes from having the time to explore something different and so forth. Of course, if the part-time roles are extremely intense and none can really be done in the contracted hours, there is a risk of exhaustion, but the general idea is that you bring a different perspective than if you did only one job.

Another issue is whether the law has kept up with people’s desire or need to work multiple jobs. Certainly maternity pay doesn’t seem to have. On the one hand, you can get several lots of SMP if you have several high-paying part-time roles. On the other, if you have one job that qualifies for SMP and another which doesn’t, you only get one lot of SMP. And if you have several jobs, but none qualifies for SMP, you only get one lot of Maternity Allowance, even if you work all hours. It doesn’t seem fair or to reflect life as many people are now living it. The law often lags behind reality, but let’s hope it catches up soon because this is likely to be a developing trend as the idea of a job for life fades further into the past.

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