Title : The occupational healthcare of workers in Gig economy
Sustainability of gig work has been questioned due to the high incidence of occupational injuries and accidents and challenges in employee well-being (e.g., Hopkins, 2017; Hünefeld et al., 2020). Gig workers often have poorer work conditions than permanent workers. The gig workers are mostly young and inexperienced and work in low-skilled occupations. Therefore, they are considered a vulnerable group of workers. (Countouris ym. 2016, p. 24-27.) Gig work comprises employment contracts in terms of contingent work including independent contractors, platform work, crowd workers, work in shared economy and self-employment (Watson et al., 2021). It has become more common globally (International Labour Organization 2016, p. 87).
In Finland, employers are obliged to arrange and organize occupational healthcare (OHC) for their workers, including gig workers. OHC consists of the activities of qualified occupational physicians, occupational health nurses, occupational physiotherapists, and occupational psychologists. The services are mostly provided by private healthcare companies. The goal is to promote workers’ work ability by preventing work-related illnesses and accidents and boosting safety and health at work in co-operation with the employer and the workers. (Occupational Healthcare Act 1383/2001.)
In our study, we focused on workers employed directly in a workplace with part-time, periodic, or zero-hours contract or hired through a temporary work agency. Our aim was to produce new knowledge and add understanding about OHC involvement in promoting gig workers’ occupational safety and health.
Our research question was: How are the OHC services arranged and organized in the gig work context, and what are the potential development needs, according to the experiences of OHC professionals?
We conducted a qualitative, descriptive study in 2021 and 2022 in Finland. The data were collected with semi-structured interviews individually, in pairs or groups. We asked four occupational health nurses, one occupational health physician, and two OHC key account managers, about arrangements and organization of OHC services to gig workers. Our focus was on their experiences of co-operation, orientation, communication, and support of work ability in such employment contracts. The interview protocol was tested beforehand. The interviews lasted about one hour each and they were recorded. Inductive content analysis method was used for the data analysis.
The preliminary results show that arrangements and organization of OHC often fail regarding safety and health promotion of gig workers. Development needs lie in the insufficient co-operation and unclear roles of the actors. The triangular employment relationship challenges co-operation in temporary agency work, and as such, involvement of OHC. When considering our results, the unique OHC system in Finland should be acknowledged.
OHC has an important role in promotion of gig workers’ work ability in co-operation with the employers and the workers. Greater involvement of OHC in occupational safety and health promotion of gig workers is needed to prevent work-related illnesses and accidents.
Audience Take Away Notes:
- The results of this study produce new knowledge and add understanding about OHC involvement in gig workers’ occupational safety and health promotion in a Finnish context
- The results contribute in developing good occupational safety and health practices regarding gig work in workplaces
- Future research needs are discussed especially of the opportunities and barriers of occupational safety and health promotion in temporary agency work globally