Chris Forde

Centre of Employment Relations Innovation and Change, University of Leeds

Workshop: Experiences of work in the platform economy

Ways in, ways through, ways out of the platform labour market


  • Simon Joyce, University of Leeds
  • Mark Stuart, University of Leeds
  • Chris Forde, University of Leeds

Research on platform work – by which we mean paid work mediated by online platforms – has led to considerable speculation about the future of work (Vandaele 2018). However, we still know relatively little about the realities of the working lives of platform workers and how this might vary across different platforms. This workshop addresses these shortcomings by bringing together contributions from leading European researchers, including a unique mix of academic and policy-oriented backgrounds.

The four papers examine different aspects of the experience of platform work, and together offer new empirical insights and deeper conceptual understanding of the complexity of platform work as a form of employment. In particular, we are interested in the place of platform work in the wider context of work and labour markets, as well as its place in the working lives of the people who do it.

The workshop will explore the following dimensions of working in the platform economy:

  • Pathways into platform work – How and why do workers enter the platform economy? Consideration will be given to prior work histories, the balance of platform work and wider household realities and the relationship between platform work and other forms of employment.
  • The types and conditions of platform work – Consideration will be given to the types of work performed via platforms, in terms of work content, skills level, length of tasks, remuneration and performance management. Does such work offer high levels of worker autonomy or job satisfaction or is such work indicative of a wider trend towards ‘gig work’ and ‘bad jobs’? Does platform work offer a viable source of long-term work, income security, and social protection?
  • Worker mobilisation and emergent forms of collective action – To what extent are platform workers able to represents their interests and, where they are, through what means is this achieved? Set against a backdrop of wider debates on bogus self-employment and lack of social protections, emergent forms of collective action are apparent. But we still know very little about the dynamics of such worker mobilisation, their relationship with established forms of labour organisation and ultimately the gains for workers’ rights that are possible. Are new models of collective action possible?
  • Pathways from platform work – Evidence suggests that workers turnover in the platform economy is high, suggesting that workers engage in such work for a limited duration and then move on. What are the dynamics of such pathways, and does platform work represent a temporary form of employment to make ends meet (for example while studying) or does it provide a starting point for particular pathways into more established forms of employment or new types of career trajectory?

It is anticipated that the workshop will run for either 1.5 or preferably 2 hours. If the former, each paper will be allocated 18 minutes, with 12 mins for presentation and then a general 30 minute discussion after the presentations.


  • Vandaele, K., 2018. Will trade unions survive in the platform economy? Emerging patterns of platform workers’ collective voice and representation in Europe, ETUI Working Paper 2018.05, ETUI, Brussels.

Platform work in working lives

Ways into and ways out of platform work

Simon Joyce, University of Leeds
Mark Stuart, University of Leeds
Chris Forde, University of Leeds

This paper contributes towards understanding platform work in the wider context of working lives. We present first findings from ongoing research based on employment-biographical interviews with present and former platform workers, examining in particular circumstances and motivations for entering and for leaving platform work.

Labour migration and stakeholders’ role in the making of Brexit

Chris Forde, Centre of Employment Relations Innovation and Change, University of Leeds
Gabriella Alberti, Leeds University Business School
Ioulia Bessa, Leeds University Business School
Zyama Ciupijus, Leeds University Business School
Jo Cutter, Leeds University Business School
Maisie Roberts, Leeds University Business School

Building on ongoing research on social partners in the ‘making of Brexit’ this paper focuses on the UK’s shifting migration regime and the role played by stakeholders’ in shaping the UK’s proposed exit from the EU. During politically driven and state-led change, regulatory spaces are redrawn as different actors attribute varied meanings to “re-regulation” (Martinez Lucio and MacKenzie, 2011). In the case of Brexit these range from views that perceive regulation as a burden, through to the ‘productive’ nature of migration controls creating precariousness in employment relations (Anderson, 2013), to more positive notions of re-regulation as an opportunity to enshrine transnational employment standards and social protections (Schiek et al. 2015).

Our argument is that it the regulatory space opened up over the last three years has resulted in many ‘effects of Brexit before Brexit’, only some of which are directly connected to the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. For example, in areas of labour market policy making, Brexit has framed, shaped and constrained the range of possibilities in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices recommendations. The future direction of policy protecting workers’ rights in the UK is unclear as these are also being used as a ‘bargaining chip’ for the UK government to try and win parliamentary and public support for a preferred Brexit deal. The effects of the referendum vote appear to already be affecting migration to the UK from the EEA as the rate in late 2018 slowed to its lowest level since 2012 (ONS 2018).

In terms of the proposed migration regime post-Brexit, there remains considerable uncertainty following the publication of the White paper on migration in December 2018. Stakeholder views have shaped this White Paper, and positions continue to evolve and change. The effects of a work permit/visa system, for example, are complex to untangle, despite the relatively simplistic positions reached or argued by some stakeholders and think tanks. A work permit/visa system is likely to make it more expensive for employers to employ some migrant workers, yet these costs may be passed on to workers. Furthermore, for migrants, the system might make moving for work to the UK unattractive for many potential workers, particularly if the possibilities for acting strategically when making migration decisions (Alberti, 2014) are constrained.

Current proposals suggest migrant workers will be tied to a single employer or unable to move from one migration scheme to another once they are working in the UK for up to 12 months during the ‘transitional’ regime to 2025. This detrimental effect on the ability of migrants to initiate mobility may have implications for employers in attracting workers and may increase labour shortages. Such an argument has received less attention in UK public discourse because there is a tendency to assume that migrants would come to the UK under any conditions – a view which takes away agency from workers and neglects the decisions they make individually and as families.

Methodologically we draw from a ‘co-production’ approach to participatory research (Chatterton et al. 2018) fostering dialogue between the different Brexit players at the institutional and community levels to ask:

  • How are stakeholders’ voices shaping the future of labour mobility in a post-Brexit world?
  • How are activities and debates at multiple scales (regional/national/international) interacting in the making of Brexit, considering the ever extending transition towards a new migration regime?

Empirically the paper draws from analysis of recent and future communications from the UK Migration Advisory Committee, related submissions and evidence from stakeholders in key sectors of the migrant economy as well as from qualitative data from roundtables and focus groups with stakeholders (trade unions, employers and civil society) on the future of labour mobility regulation in post-Brexit UK.

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