A government-backed initiative, under which people sell their labour by the hour, could save the taxpayer up to £400m a year and keep workers out of the black economy, experts have predicted.
The Slivers of Time programme allows people to register their skills and availability online, where they sell their free hours to employers. It is targeted at those who want to work flexibly due to other commitments such as caring.
The scheme was set up with £500,000 backing from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister – which has been rebranded as the Office for Communities and Local Government.
Research by Middlesex University showed that when target groups were offered the chance to sell their time this way, two-thirds (68%) said they would take it.
A separate study by Oxford Economic Forecasters showed that, with just 5% take-up among target groups, it could save £400m a year in benefits claims.
Slivers of Time is being piloted by Newham Council in east London, which is using it to fill in areas such as catering and cleaning roles. More than 200 people have signed up to the scheme, with a further 400 awaiting screening.
Wingham Rowan, Slivers of Time programme director, said the scheme offered organisations a much wider base of potential employees.
“At the moment, if these people want to work really flexibly, for many, their best option is the black economy,” he said.
Rowan denied that employers would face uncertainty about potential workers’ qualifications and reliability.
“All those selling their time have first to be approved by agencies, which act as gatekeepers,” he said. “There is also an objective rating system where employers can gauge their reliability [from previous jobs].”
The government is in talks about extending the scheme to other parts of the UK. Local government minister Phil Woolas said: “The idea of providing little bits of time for work is very innovative, but blindingly obvious.