“We will assign you jobs based on the number of hours and days that you are available to work. If you want to work for two hours, we will assign work only for two hours. We will provide you jobs one day in advance and jobs will be in your area so that you don’t have to waste time travelling,” or so 35-year-old Seema Singh was told by her manager when she joined Urban Company four years ago, an online platform providing on-demand, at-home professional services ranging from beauty and salon treatments to professional cleaning.
For Seema, like many of the 32,000 workers (or ‘partners’ as they are called) working for Urban Company, it seemed like the perfect set-up for a mother of two young children. This flexibility is part of the reason that an estimated 40 per cent of Urban Company partners are women, a far higher percentage than most platform companies. But when she joined, the company changed tack, assigning her two to three jobs (equalling about eight to ten hours of work) that were 20 to 40 kilometres away from her home, sometimes informing her on the day.