Gig economy roles and responsibilities in WHS

Research Update

The Centre for Work Health and Safety’s research into the food delivery in the gig economy is currently underway.

Phases 1 and 2 have been completed.

Phase 1 explored the worker's perspective, including their behaviour and concerns through a number of data collection approaches. The full report is linked here: Work health and safety of food delivery workers in the gig economy.

Phase 2 captured the perspective of the gig economy food delivery platforms and businesses working within their sphere of operation. The full report is linked here: Work health and safety perceptions of food delivery platforms in the gig economy.

Together these reports present a balanced analysis of the current state of WHS in this complex working environment.

The Centre is committed to not only create new knowledge around emerging issues but deliver practical interventions or solutions to aid in the prevention of harm.

To this end, Phase 3 and 4 are planned to design and test possible interventions with the assistance of key stakeholders in the gig economy.

Below you can find more about the structure and timelines of the project.

Research question

What are the work health and safety (WHS) characteristics of workers and operators (i.e., online platforms) in the food delivery sector of the gig economy?

What is this research about?

The gig economy has seen a rapid growth in the last few years, doubling in size between 2014–2016 (SIRA, 2019) with independent contractors comprising 8.2 % of the Australian workforce (ABS, 2018).

Technological advancement and the emergence of app-based business structures have created flexible working opportunities for workers across a range of expanding sectors. These changes have also provided better access, flexibility and prices for customers and consumers. However, despite such advancements, the gig economy has generated confusion for around work rights, legal roles and responsibilities.

To date, research into WHS concerns is limited and has been aligned with challenges in industrial relations. While risks and controls in similar industries and employment conditions are known (e.g. labour hire, casual and insecure work), it is unclear whether the same risks and controls apply to the app-based business structures of the gig-economy.

What will the researchers do?

The research will establish a better understanding of the WHS perceptions and behaviours in the Australian gig economy context by focusing on food delivery services. Such knowledge will be used to enable the development of proactive prevention activities.

The research objectives include:

  • Describing the characteristics of food delivery workers and operators (i.e., online platforms), their knowledge, awareness, behaviours and main concerns in relation to health and safety at work.
  • Developing proactive prevention activities with end users and industry partners.

Research partners and stakeholders

The Behavioural Insights Team

Macquarie University


Project commenced: February 2020

Project completion: October 2021

Want to know more?

To work with the Centre, or stay up to date with our research, head to our Engage with us page.

Further reading

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) Characteristics of Employment, Australia, August 2017, cat. no. 6333.0, Canberra, ABS.