By Natashia Barnabas, Industrial Relations Manager at Workforce Staffing
13 April 2021

Temporary Employment Services (TES) have been utilised mainly in first-world economies whereby organisations have the flexibility to procure required skills on a part-time (ad-hoc) or on a fixed term (temporary) basis. These services are usually contracted in order to complete a project, cater for a business project (fixed duration), provide additional staffing due to fluctuations in volume of work, as well as to cater for seasonal work. Adopting a gig economy within South Africa could be the turning point in the lowering of the unemployment rate and increasing the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In January 2021, The United States of America (USA) saw temporary employment rise by 81 000 jobs which amassed a total of 83,5% of new jobs just for the month. The latest unemployment rate for South Africa has revealed an increase of 32,5% with 7,2 million people jobless. However, to bolster a gig economy in South Africa, companies require a constant supply of skilled, as well as unskilled staff with the ability to manage the workforce. This is where a TES provider can assist.

Gig economy overview

By definition, a gig economy refers to a labour market whereby short-term or freelance work is preferred over that of permanent jobs. A gig refers to

each task or project that is worked on by an individual and this provides flexibility to those who choose this employment option. From an employee perspective, individuals can as a result, focus on more meaningful tasks, while simultaneously, being able to meet the demands of personal life.

Locally we will benefit from a gig economy as individuals are provided an opportunity to earn an income, as permanent jobs remain scarce. This flexible approach will decrease unemployment rates as individuals have the opportunity to participate in temporary work rather than remain static and unemployed.

Temporary work also provides individuals with vital job experience that can be used in future endeavours. This can be useful to younger generations in terms of skills development, skills specialisation and being able to become multi-skilled, which makes them more ‘attractive’ in the job. The need for skills has been further exacerbated by the youth’s current inability to afford tertiary education. Ultimately both employees and companies will benefit, as employees become multiskilled and negotiate their own terms and conditions with the company, and companies will obtain the skills they require whilst ensuring cost effectiveness. Compliance all-round is an issue that many companies struggle with. However, TES providers manage the workforce, while ensuring compliance on various levels within the business, which allow organisations to focus on their core business.

Policy adjustments for businesses and legislation

The new mindset of temporary employment has not had a strong following in South Africa due to traditional and rigid business structures. In order to bolster the gig economy in South Africa, businesses would have to change company policy and enlist the services of a third-party to ensure the amendments are implemented correctly. Legislation would need to be drafted to ‘cover’ the areas that fall in-between an employee and independent contractor. With various compliance requirements for businesses, such as adhering to relevant labour laws such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA) to name a few. It is also important to note that independent contractors are generally excluded from this legislation. As such, the matter would need to be judged upon on a case-by-case basis. The gig economy option for South Africa provides many more ‘pros’ than it does ‘cons’. This leaves a requirement for a partner that can assist with drafting and implementation of policy changes and help the organisation leveraging the gig economy to their full potential, whilst also ensuring the organisation is legally compliant.

TES providers are the driving force

In terms of legal matters, with specialists in all fields of business, whether it be commercial, legal, Industrial Relations (IR), sales, operations or payroll, a TES provider will ensure that the business is maintaining its compliance standards with the necessary legislation. An experienced and well-established TES provider with the right expertise and skills in staffing solutions and workforce management, will be able to provide on-demand staff for fluctuating business requirements. This, in addition the training of staff, as well as managing the workforce to ensure the desired productivity levels are achieved. However, these TES providers also need to take into consideration the operations of the organisation and accordingly ensure the health and safety of all parties. Aligning with the right provider with the same values, vision and direction, is important to ensure a gig economy approach is adopted easily while meeting all necessary legal and business requirements.

The gig economy can be the recovery framework for South Africa to reduce the unemployment rate that Covid-19 brought about. Candidates who have experienced job losses, have an opportunity to earn an income again by engaging in temporary work on specific projects. By engaging with a TES provider that already has existing clients (in retail, construction, transport, logistics, manufacturing, e-commerce, warehousing etc.) which require a workforce for fixed term periods. The employee may make the necessary job applications with the TES, who will then start the recruitment process with the prospective employee. The employee will then be matched to any requests from clients for an employee with that particular skill set or interest. TES providers are also the vehicle to supply such staff to their clients, as well ensure that staff are adequately trained. TES providers have an extensive local CV data base filled with unskilled employees, as well as skilled employees in various levels and occupations. In addition to the above, they can also ensure criminal and other background checks are also done during the recruitment process, before an employee is placed on site. Management of employees are executed by the TES provider, thereby allowing the organisation to focus on growing its core business.