Limits on independent contracting hurt employers and workers

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

From Commonwealth Magazine, argues that the strict independent contractor laws in California and Massachusetts unnecessarily restrict healthcare providers from hiring qualified independent workers during this pandemic. Mike writes:

CARING FOR A tsunami of patients in the midst of a pandemic is hard enough. Unfortunately, laws in Massachusetts and California make the job even harder by preventing hospitals and all other employers from contracting with self-employed individuals for work if they bring skills that fall within the buyer’s “usual course of business.”

A health care system facing an enormous surge in demand is looking frantically for skilled personnel and specialists to serve the sick by contracting with individuals who can quickly bring desperately needed help to patients—and comfort to their families—with minimal supervision.

But relying on local temp staffing is how Berkshire Health had to fill in for nurses who were furloughed in March because of possible exposure to the virus. Young specialists like nurses look forward to “going 1099” so they can still practice nursing, but skip the relentless grind and inflexibility. And health care facilities are eager to contract with these experienced professionals.

Individual workers also lose under this arrangement. The laws effectively put self-employed independent contractors out of business. The workers either have to become regular employees somewhere or go through a staffing agency where they would likely make far less money, as in the Berkshire example.

Successful contractors learn how to work very quickly, finish tasks flawlessly, and then charge a little more for them. Good work at a fast pace and decent rates makes the contractor’s revenue meter spin faster, which is one reason why they rarely return to more traditional settings.

Many people want more control over their work time. They seek flexibility instead of a rigid corporate schedule, the opportunity to earn more, and to choose what they do and with whom they work.

Self-employed independent contractors can achieve these goals without start-up capital or the large fees that are required to enter many industries. Yet by classifying virtually every worker as an employee, Massachusetts and California rob parents, family caregivers, the disabled, the active retired, and so many others of the ability to work on a schedule that fits their family and other commitments, as well as their preference for how much they’d like to work.

No one disputes that some employers have used their leverage to save on benefits and other costs by inappropriately classifying workers as independent contractors. Massachusetts and other states should have laws to protect the workers, and they do.

But those laws shouldn’t turn voluntary independent contractors into pariahs and their clients into criminals, and rob them of the flexibility they need to balance work, family and other responsibilities.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Massachusetts and California laws do.  Wouldn’t it be better public policy to let individuals voluntarily declare themselves as their own employer, so state enforcement resources could concentrate on real victims?

Read the full story at Source: Limits on independent contracting hurt employers and workers — CommonWealth Magazine

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