European Study Focuses On Freelancer Rights & Benefits.e_darrellj | Jan 30, 2013
Note: As freelancing becomes an increasingly-important force within the world’s workplace, the issues of online worker’s rights is taking center stage. While full-time employees often have access to employee benefits and rights, this is not always the case for freelancers. Below is an article discussing this critical issue in Europe, penned by Joel Dullroy of Deskwanted, with an invitation to voice your opinion in a study they’re conducting. Naturally these matters need to be studied and resolved in all regions of the world.
The situation of freelancers is undoubtedly an important one; and includes the political, economic, and social circumstances of independent workers. Currently, however, there is proportionately little discussion and reform surrounding these issues need to be addressed and rewritten to reflect their economic clout, especially as this demographic swells to account for the majority of the international workforce.
As it stands, the situation of freelancers as a subgroup of the international workforce is still fairly unexplored, and we know comparatively little about this growing demographic which some studies suggest will make up a major part of the European workforce by 2020.
Without information, little can be done to assess the political and social needs of independent workers. This, however, is soon to change.
A study into freelancers is underway.
A group of academics, commissioned by the European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP) is currently conducting a European-wide study of freelancers (also referred to as independent professionals or I-pros in the UK), with the aim of better understanding the situation of freelance workers. The outcome of the report will be used by the EFIP to start an EU-level political campaign to fight for better conditions for freelance workers – and much needed workplace reforms.
Why do freelancers’ work protections need to be revised?
We know that work conditions for freelancers need to be improved. The workers’ protections that employees everywhere take for granted – fair taxation, payment protection and affordable healthcare schemes – aren’t extended to independent workers, which has created an environment in which freelancers are too-often exploited for their work.
One recent campaign conducted by the Freelancer’s Union in New York highlighted this all-to-frequent occurrence, when a cumulative invoice of almost $16 million in unpaid freelancer invoices was delivered to the New York senate. Here is a link to their site:
Without appropriate protection laws, these instances of payment infringements are bound to continue; and will become a much larger issue as the freelancer demographic grows.
With some statistics suggesting that 55% of businesses already outsource part of their work to contractors, and multinational companies like IMB introducing strategies to reduce their core workforce to a minimum – aiming to cut 14,000 of 20,000 permanent jobs in Germany alone – the independent workforce is set to become a majority of the European workforce within a decade.
There are some precautions that freelancers can take.
There are of course several ways that freelancers can safeguard their livelihoods. Joining an agency like Elance (which includes their Elance Hourly Work Guarantee), offers a buffer between clients and contractual workers, is one way to reduce the risk of working independently. Elance can hold clients accountable by pinning responsibility back on the client, and ensuring timely payment.
Aside from joining a virtual network of freelancers, another way is to join a physical community of freelancers, like in a coworking space. By surrounding themselves with other independent professionals, freelancers can ask advice on administrative and legal issues, as well as finding trusted clients. There are coworking spaces in hundreds of cities worldwide, which are acting as hubs of freelance talent, supporting independent workers in their work and social life. Deskwanted is a useful tool to find and book coworking spaces in all corners of the globe.
Despite these safeguards, the situation of this growing demographic should be improved on the whole, ensuring they are properly protected by national and regional law.
Anyone working in the EU as a freelancer is happily welcomed to participate by taking part in a brief interview with a member of the research team. If you would like to add your voice, please be in touch with Joel Dullroy firstname.lastname@example.org, International Representative of the Association of Founders and Freelancers – Germany (www.vgsd.de and co-founder of Deskwanted.com).