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Posts from November 2017.

The holiday season is here; the time for toys and time for cheer. While many will deck the halls with boughs of holly, others will take on extra work for extra cash. For years, retail jobs made up the lion’s share of holiday work. But nowadays, countless individuals are earning cash independently and finding their holiday hustle in the gig economy. Various holiday gigs include the usual suspects: Uber, Task Rabbit, Rover.com, etc. However, with the surge of employment needs during the holidays, many industries can take advantage of the numerous individuals seeking temporary or contract gigs during the holiday season (i.e. in the technology, accounting, and marketing industries).

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion about Blockchain technology and its potential to revolutionize and transform the sharing or gig economy. If you’re like me, your first question might be, “What the heck is Blockchain?”

The gig economy recently came close to a major honor when it was named a runner-up for the Collins Dictionary 2017 Word of the Year. This annual campaign reflects upon the words which have best defined the previous year. Other runner-ups for 2017 include “gender fluid” and “fidget spinner.”

I couldn’t help but be struck by two recent headlines which appeared to stand diametrically opposed in answering the question of who is driving the gig economy. 

One headline from World Finance touted the driving force of the Millennials – “As more Millennials are choosing to freelance, employer must evolve to suit employees’ needs.” The tagline for the article then issued the following proclamations: “Millennials are going freelance in their droves. Companies will have to transform beyond recognition to lure modern workers away from the freedom of being their own boss.”

The gig economy just got a strong ally in its fight to remain union-free: the federal government. The latest development in the ongoing saga involving an attempt to put into place the nation’s first unionization law that would cover certain gig economy companies involves the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission throwing its support behind gig companies.

Bad news out of Washington, D.C. late yesterday. Chris Opfer of Bloomberg BNA reports that the current version of the Senate tax reform bill, released yesterday, no longer includes the protection that had initially been proposed that would have prevented misclassification challenges against most gig economy companies. We discussed the proposal in a blog post last week with high hopes that we might start to see some movement on the federal regulatory front, but this latest development means that gig companies will be waiting longer for protection from the federal government.

There are obvious “benefits” to participating in the gig economy: Gig companies get to use as little or as much labor as they need. Gig workers are able to work at their chosen capacity. And customers get new products and services. But there are other “benefits” that are receiving more attention of late: “employee benefits.”

It is no secret that labor laws have been unable to keep pace with the changing economy. Recently, however, it appears the effort to spur change has been resuscitated, as proposals come in from the left (former SIEU head Andrew Stern) and the right (R Street Institute’s Eli Lehrer and Garret Watson), and pressure is applied from the bench (eastern Pennsylvania federal judge Hon. Michael Baylson). 

If you’re not already listening to the GaryVee Audio Experience Podcast, I recommend starting immediately. Former immigrant turned multi-millionaire Gary Vaynerchuk offers some of the best advice I’ve heard in succeeding in today’s social media and technology-driven society, including why so many Americans are turning to the gig economy to complete tasks and make a living.

While misclassification battles over the status of gig economy workers rage here in the United States, we are by no means the only country grappling with these thorny 21st-century legal issues. Just today, in fact, an appeals tribunal in the United Kingdom ruled against Uber by agreeing two drivers who brought a claim against the ride-sharing giant should be classified as employees and not independent contractors, therefore entitling them to minimum wage payment and statutory holiday pay. This watershed decision could spell serious trouble not only for Uber but for many other gig companies operating in the UK. The question that American businesses need to be asking now is: “will this decision impact us in any way?”

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