Study finds part time, commission based, zero-hour contract workers suffer worse health than fixed income employees

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A new study has shown the stresses of part time, commission based and zero-hour contracts is affecting people’s health.

Gig workers and those who rely on fluctuating income are suffering from poor sleep quality, headaches, stomach issues and back pain in stark contrast to fixed-waged workers. That’s according to a study by Dr Gordon Sayre, an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Emlyon Business School in France.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, questions whether types of pay such as tips, piece-rate work and performance bonuses, are necessary. Researchers undertook three studies spanning several industries in the United States including on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a website where gig workers can do various tasks for minimal amounts of pay.

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Large fluctuations of daily pay over the two-weeks were linked with negative physical health symptoms and poor sleep quality while the correlation was stronger when irregular pay made up a larger percentage of the worker’s total pay. This was a marked contrast to those who had a steady income and received commission where those surveyed had small effects but not as harmful to their health as they were less reliant on these commissions or bonuses.

“Pay volatility seems to predict worse health outcomes across a wide range of incomes” Dr Sayre commented regarding the findings of the study. “Not only was pay volatility related to worse health in lower-paid tipped jobs or among freelancers in the gig economy but for higher-paid professionals working in finance, sales and marketing where commissions and performance bonuses are common.”

The study proposes that businesses should ensure more stable forms of payment make up a larger proportion of a workers’ total income. “Unions are another way that workers could secure stronger protections against volatile pay,” Dr Sayre suggests, “Raising the proportion of base pay and reducing dependence on volatile pay should help protect workers’ health in many industries.”

“While the study cannot prove that volatile pay can have a negative impact on a person’s health, it does show that there is a definite link between them.”

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