In a recent account shared on Lifehacker, freelance writer Rebecca Fishbein described her experience working from home for a full year. She noted several upsides to the laid-back life of couch-consulting. She doesn’t have to deal with a commute, she rarely puts on real pants or shoes, and she can make dental appointments in the middle of the day — or at least she could if she had health insurance that covered a dental checkup.
Many consultants, independent contractors, and others working in the gig economy face a similar dilemma: they have more “freedom” in theory, but lack basic securities like workers compensation benefits, paid sick leave, or other benefits that come with traditional employment. In fact, 65% of part-time workers and a little more than half of contract workers receive no benefits, according to a recent NPR/Marist poll. And one in five American jobs is now held by a worker under contract.
Last year, Jessica Martinez, director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, noted that “Those who work in the gig economy are making money but missing out on other standard benefits of having jobs: health care primarily but also paid sick leave and worker’s compensation.” She compared their employment status to the Tinder economy: “When a temp worker is done with his or her shift, the boss swipes left and claims to have no further obligation.”
Nearly 130 million American workers are protected by worker’s compensation, but many businesses in the gig economy like Uber and Lyft don’t provide these benefits because they classify their workers as “independent contractors.” This maneuver lets the company reduce labor costs since it doesn’t have to pay contractors the same level of benefits as traditional employees. In effect, the companies make employees – or the general public – responsible for the costs of work-related injuries.
Yet despite these drawbacks, many workers value the flexibility of freelance employment, or simply have no other option. So how do they make the best of their circumstances?
Opportunities for a vibrant social life, regular work hours — and even acceptable street fashion — are still within reach for those working from home. Fishbein’s tips can help you think about what building structure and schedule int your work-from-home lifestyle in a way that can improve your overall effectiveness and quality of life.
“There are lots of great strategies to make the most of the situation if you work from home,” says Tim Emery, a workers’ compensation attorney and founding member of Emery Reddy. “But none of those personal lifestyle changes can compensate for the fact that freelancers, independent contractors, and other workers in the gig economy are often exploited. Our firm looks out for those vulnerable workers to make sure their rights aren’t being violated.”
The employment attorneys at Emery Reddy have represented hundreds of workers who’ve been denied their rights: contact us today to represent your case and help you receive the maximum compensation allowed under Washington law.