- SurveyMonkey is offering contract employees at its San Mateo County, CA, headquarters full benefits, including medical, dental and vision insurance, CNBC reports. The tech industry in San Mateo and Santa Clara relies on contract workers, some 39,000 according to researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz, but most companies deny contract workers benefits and other perks reserved for full-time employees.
- The industry's use of gig workers can be tied to a growing pay disparity between highly paid talent and low-earning contract workers, who bring home on average $19,900 annually and therefore can't afford the rising housing costs in the area, CNBC notes. White-collar contractors in the space earn on average $53,200 a year.
- SurveyMonkey doesn't offer contractor benefits at its other five offices, but reportedly has selected its Portland office as the next location to offer the benefits, CNBC said. The company could afford the contractor program, CNBC added, because of surplus funds saved from its total benefits cost.
Benefits programs for independent contractors and gig economy workers are decidedly not the norm in Silicon Valley or elsewhere. This saves costs for companies but has also drawn criticism from labor advocates who say these workers are missing out on important protective benefits, considering many gig workers hold high-risk jobs subject to injury.
Lawmakers haven't been quick to address the legal ramifications involved, even as bipartisan groups in the U.S. Congress have convened to discuss protections for contract workers' rights and wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Benefits aren't the only consideration, either; Rep. Eleanor Norton Holmes, D-D.C., introduced a bill in January that would extend the anti-discrimination protections of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to independent contractors, freelancers and similar work arrangements.
Regardless of the outcomes in Congress, contract workers are likely going to play key roles in the workplace of the future — meaning employers have a keen interest in managing these relationships in equitable, engaging and compliant ways.