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Please don’t take flexibility away from ‘gigging’ GPs

Dr Renee Hoenderkamp

I can’t turn on the news of late without hearing about the latest tranche of workers (or employees, depending on your stance) taking their employer to court to win employee rights. Commonly referred to as ‘gig economy’ workers, these include Uber drivers, Deliveroo workers et al.

On the surface I hear you all cheering for the worker. Of course they should get the rights of employees, including holidays and sick pay. And yet it leaves me cold and rather feeling a little outside of it.  The term gig economy is just a trendy word for the self-employed. Those who subcontract their skills and benefit from the flexibility that this gives. No working hours imposed, no rotas, no anti-social hours if not desired – just work when you want to and do other things when you choose to.

In fact it’s me, and you, if you have opted for a portfolio/locum GP career. I chose my working pattern because it suited me, not just a little, but perfectly. I have crafted my NHS GP work around my private clinic, my media commitments and my family, and while it may sound trite, my desire to get my gym session done in the middle of the day. For this flexibility, I am more than happy to sacrifice holiday and sick pay, in fact I don’t want it. I don’t want the entitlement that this may bring with it.

It is complex and my tax return is understandably time consuming. When I opted for this flexible way of working I was overwhelmed but could see the benefit at every turn. I was unsure how I would organise such a complex diary, invoice and collect money, work out my pension contributions and get them sent, and include my non-NHS work in all of this.

 I fear that if we don’t speak up in support of this chosen working lifestyle it will soon be a thing of the past

That side of it was quickly solved through a subscription to a website/app that does all of the above for me without very much input on my part. In a sense it’s like the facilitator of a gig economy worker.

And as the world changes and I tentatively dip my toe into the video consulting world, my portfolio work grows ever more complex – but using these apps I can source my own portfolio work or dip in to extras near me with ease and know it will all be correctly administered.

And yet I fear that if we don’t speak up in support of this chosen working lifestyle it will soon be a thing of the past.

One can see where the push is coming from to consign the term self-employed into the history books: the government would love a sterile PAYE only world where they collect their tax without any issues and they can wrap it in ‘looking after workers’ paper whilst sniggering all the way to the bank.

We cannot accept this approach. Some of us, I suspect many of us, do not want to be employees.

We want, indeed crave, the flexibility. We are not all the same, god forbid, although this does seem to be the stealthy aim of society in all areas, just with the spotlight trained on workers right now.

Why, I wonder, as with so many things which to me seem common sense, are the media not speaking out for those of us who want to be giggers?

Dr Renee Hoenderkamp is a portfolio and media GP in London