The future is bright, but not without its issues, particularly around workers' rights.
This is the conclusion from the Westminster e-Forum seminar this morning on the Sharing Economy in the UK (think Airbnb, Love Home Swap, Vrumi, as well as platform/app providers like Uber).
Debbie Wosskow, the founding chair of the trade association for the sharing economy UK and CEO of Love Home Swap, led an interesting discussion about current trends. Particular highlights are;
The protection of workers' rights is very firmly in the spotlight and needs parliamentary direction. Is there a third way or a third status, which is not employment or self-employment but which gives workers more protection than they currently have? Should there be a new category of 'Platform Worker' with its own bespoke rights and obligations? Is this a way of allowing Deliveroo to provide their staff with helmets when otherwise they are prevented from doing so because their staff are 'self-employed'? Or a way for workers to be given some form of security of tenure without being employees? Should there be some kind of proportionality threshold i.e. regulation should only apply to someone working 40 hours a week, and not someone working 10 hours a week? Lots of questions which the Government (and the Treasury in particular) is thinking about and needs to address.
The positive effect of Brexit. It may not be the way many voted, but for true sharing and accommodation-based companies in particular then the current currency status is beneficial and non-UK sales are up. Plus, when times are tight, sharing is a more attractive option and more people go looking for opportunities to share their assets and make some extra money.
London is one of the most attractive places to do business. London in particular is embracing the sharing economy. The Government has reformed legislation in London to enable Londoners to participate in the sharing economy and benefit from short term letting through Airbnb etc. The Government has also announced a personal tax allowance for sharing economy participants that will allow people who sell goods or services online to earn up to £2,000 without paying tax. On the 22nd September we will see the launch of the world's first sharing economy kite-mark, TrustSeal, in an attempt to address the importance of trust in this growing sector.
Women in business. Women are over-represented in the sharing economy sector, and some see this as a huge opportunity for women to redefine the future of work. There is certainly an untethering from the office and a sector-wide opportunity for flexible working.