The “Gig” Economy: Helping The New Normal

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Freelancers. Contractors. Consultants. Temps.

Sometimes these terms are interchangeable, but in reality, they are all different parts of the same economy – the one that has especially blossomed over the last 10 years and is expected to keep growing over the next few years.

It is called the “gig economy,” and it has been a big help in the economic recovery of the United States. But while there have been plenty of workers willing to work for several companies in various areas as contractors or consultants, this gig economy has helped companies with their bottom lines though they get the same or better work from their contractors.

Many companies can save money by using contract or freelance labor by paying them a decent wage but not allowing them access to retirement plans, workers’ compensation insurance, paid vacation or sick days. In some businesses, these kinds of fringe benefits can add 30 to 40 percent of compensation to an employee’s salary. A temp or contract worker who doesn’t have access to those fringe benefits has to be available to work as often as possible, because any day off for whatever reason means a loss of income.

Suffering a personal injury while on the job or off can be devastating to a worker in the gig economy, and one Democrat senator is trying to put the federal hand into the economy by introducing a bill that would provide funds for organizations to develop portable benefits plans for these gig-economy workers so that benefits such as sick time can go with these workers from job to job instead of being tied to a specific company as an employee.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) plans to introduce the bill soon, and his office claims that the gig economy is growing at such a rate that it accounts for one-third of all U.S. workers today and the number may jump to half of all workers in just three years. As the economy continues to change and evolve, it has become a common expectation that all workers should have access to benefits such as sick leave and vacation as well as a company retirement plan even if the worker is actually working with several companies and is not a pay rolled employee of one.

In the gig economy, there is little doubt that a personal injury suffered on the job, especially, can be difficult for a worker who does not have access to workers’ compensation plans through an employer. This is why it is so important that, while Sen. Warner’s expected bill gets discussed and debated in the halls of Congress, even a gig worker should have and understand his or her rights when it comes to a personal injury on-the-job while working for a client business that is not your actual employer. You are just as hurt for the same work as a payroll employee, so you should have the same legal rights to compensation regardless of your status. Having a quality personal-injury lawyer on your side to fight for your rights will level the playing field for all workers.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.