The phrase “gig economy” may immediately bring to mind transportation companies and food delivery services, but it has become so much more than that. Many different industries have begun to utilize the gig economy. As we have previously discussed, lawyers working on a short term contractual basis to perform tasks such as document review have recently become more common. Likewise, doctors are also taking part in the gig economy with the rise of telemedicine. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that scientists are now also becoming active participants in the on-demand economy.
Last week was a big week when it comes to shining the spotlight on sexual harassment in the gig economy arena. On Thursday, Nathan Heller wrote a piece for the New Yorker that garnered a lot of attention entitled, “The Gig Economy Is Especially Susceptible to Sexual Harassment.” The premise of the article is that freelance workers of all stripes outside the sphere of protection that typically covers W-2 employees, noting that human resources departments, collective bargaining, and federal and state laws cannot offer coverage over most independent contractors. Because of that, Heller writes, “freelance workers are highly vulnerable [to sexual harassment]. They have little institutional support and few, if any, supervisors. They are transient and easily replaceable as well. Those who gig with algorithmic ratings systems must stay on the good side of capricious clients. Others, who depend on word-of-mouth referrals, are obliged to embrace any gift horses that come.”
A state appellate court in Pennsylvania issued a ruling yesterday that should further aid the growth of the gig economy in the state, and if its reasoning is followed by courts in other states, could offer another helping hand to the nascent gig economy on a national scale. The court ruled that an unemployed man who picked up some shifts as an Uber driver did not disqualify himself from receiving unemployment benefits as a result of his gig work. This is good news for freelancers and businesses alike, as it removes one possible impediment that may have otherwise held people back from offering their services to gig economy companies.
Of all the public policy debates surrounding the gig economy of late, one of the hottest topics has been “portable benefits” – the concept that gig economy workers should have flexible, portable benefits that they can take with them from job to job, or “gig to gig.” This push just got a major jumpstart that may turn out to be a game-changer.
As the proliferation of skilled contract workers continues, it is vital for companies to evaluate their strategies to attract and retain accomplished freelancers. Competition for skilled independent contractors is fiercer than ever as the gig economy allows just about everyone to run their own businesses, choose when to work, and carefully select which projects to accept. Because there are now dozens of platforms that allow freelancers to sell their own goods, sell space in their home, and market their skills, your organization is not alone in vying for their services.
An international crowd of approximately 60,000 people attended the Web Summit Lisbon last month where one of the most pressing questions posed during the conference was: “How do we create a future of work that works for everyone?” As it relates to the gig economy, a three-person panel attempted to answer that question. And one of the panel members (Richard Socarides, the Head of Public Affairs at Gerson Lehrman Group) recently wrote an article highlighting the six big picture takeaways from the panel discussion.
With each passing day, it is becoming increasingly evident that the gig economy is here to stay. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that institutions of higher education have begun thinking of ways to educate students about the gig economy.
Amidst all of the year-end articles recapping the world of labor and employment law and predicting the upcoming legal trends for the year-to-come, Bloomberg BNA identified “The Gig Economy and Flex Work” as one of the top five workplace issues to watch in 2018. We agree, and the proof lies in the numbers.
Among my list of “must-read” workplace law summaries is the weekly “Punching In” column put out by Chris Opfer and Ben Penn over at Bloomberg Law’s Labor and Employment Blog every Monday morning. This week’s edition contains two pieces of interesting news for gig businesses. The first is a recap of the little-known provision in the tax reform bill that could provide as much as a 20 percent reduction off the taxable earnings of gig workers, which could funnel even more people into the pool of gig workers (and incentivize those already in the pool to stay there). We discussed this a few weeks ago; you can read about it in more detail here in this December 29 post.
In 2017, we saw how women across the globe have been using the gig economy as a means of gaining some financial independence. A recent report by the Overseas Development Institute even explored how the gig economy is benefiting Syrian women refugees in Jordan.
Meanwhile, women in the United States have also enjoyed earning money while balancing other responsibilities. In a study published last spring, Hyperwallet examined how American women were experiencing gig work, providing useful insight to gig companies on how they can attract, support, and retain female gig workers.