Worker misclassification is one of the biggest issues facing businesses in the gig space and elsewhere. As the demand for gig workers increases, businesses are thinking of creative ways to hire and retain great talent. Independent contractors are increasingly becoming savvier, too, and are using their collective power to push employers for benefits traditionally reserved for W2 employees. So, what is a business to do? Well, one company is offering traditional benefits to untraditional gig workers.
As an increasing number of workers continue to join the gig economy, it is increasingly imperative for lawmakers and regulators to create a new retirement system that allows for freelancers and individuals working for multiple businesses to easily save for retirement. Although the American workforce is changing, the traditional retirement system does not yet present an option for the changing workforce. Gig workers are currently not entitled to enjoy a traditional employer-based retirement plan because such plan are only permitted to cover employees and not independent contractors.
As we have previously discussed, one of the hottest gig economy issues to dominate political and public policy debate 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. States and local governments are increasingly moving forward on their own with proposals to explore the provision of benefits to individual performing work in the gig economy. Most notable are proposals that have been set forth in the state legislatures in Washington, New York and New Jersey. The movement also got a boost in January when Uber and SEIU announced a joint call for the state of Washington to develop a portable benefits system that would cover gig economy workers.
Offering health, retirement, and workers’ compensation benefits to the varied gig workforce, while maintaining some affordability to the worker while also avoiding the 30 percent cost increase to businesses, has proven to be an extremely tall task. The situation gets even more complicated because gig businesses also need to be concerned that charges of worker misclassification could be supported by the offering of such benefits to their contractor workforce.
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.
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.
While the national debate rages on among policymakers, gig businesses, and worker advocates about whether and how to offer benefits to gig workers, some gig businesses are coming up with creative benefit offerings to meet at least some of the needs of gig workers.
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.”