Could helping the self-employed help Vermont’s economy?

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From WCAX, Nancy Remsen identifies the dilemma with classifying workers as employees or independent contractors.  One wants to allow and even encourage individuals who want to be their own boss, set their own hours and be independent freelancers while at the same time protecting workers from unscrupulous companies who see to take advantage of workers, classify them as independent contractors and avoid paying payroll taxes, unemployment taxes or workers compensation insurance premiums.  Nancy reports:

“Ray Padgett is one of 75 members of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technology.

“Before I moved here I did work for a big publicity company in New York City and I left because I wanted to freelance and just spend more time working on my blog and working on my book and just sort of have the flexibility to do multiple things rather than being stuck in one track,” Padgett said.

The center in Burlington is where he multitasks. It opened last October in the FairPoint building on Main Street in Burlington.

“We are a co-working space and VCET is a nonprofit here in Vermont with three spaces, a large mentor network, working with 11 colleges and we operate a small venture capital fund,” said David Bradbury, the president of VCET.

Vermont lawmakers are looking for ways to help workers like Padgett, hoping that could stimulate new economic activity.

“If this is the way the world is going to be we need to understand how best Vermont can organize itself to protect workers throughout their careers and to have systems and to protect employers, too,” said Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal.

The House Commerce Committee got help understanding changing workforce trends from three University of Vermont seniors working on a legislative research project.

“As the labor market is changing in the 21st century, you know, people are doing work in new ways, you know, that we haven’t seen before. So you guys trying to tackle this issue is definitely a good thing,” student Jon Gonin said.

The students found there’s limited information about the number of people choosing nontraditional ways of working. They report one study says at 10 percent, Vermont has the highest self-employed rate in the country. And they point to a U.S. Census Bureau survey suggesting 14 percent of Vermont’s workforce is self-employed.

“Your feeling is right on that people now want to have the freedom of being able to freelance, being able to work on their schedule and their time. With technology being where it is, that is now kind of an option for people,” Gonin said.

The students also say misclassifying workers as independent rather than as full-time employees is a problem the House Commerce Committee should address….”

Read the full story at Could helping the self-employed help Vermont’s economy?

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