- A lack of "portable benefits" is standing in the way of workers trying to succeed and thrive in the new gig economy — where flexibility rules, according to Fast Company.
- Today's businesses expect a workforce "available on short notice, for temporary engagements, with specialized skills," writes author Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancer's Union, a national labor group that represents freelancers and also sells health insurance and other products.
- Horowitz writes that inflexibility is the current status quo for independent workers, as health insurance, unemployment insurance and workers compensation exist in the employer domain. Leave your company, lose your benefits — a reality that Horowitz says "makes no sense in today's economy, where people move from job to job to build a career." Horowitz, like many other experts and observers, believes benefits must be shifted to workers, not employers.
Horowitz says portable benefits have received a lot of chatter but the idea is just now beginning to pick up steam. She mentions the group of tech, public policy and labor leaders who signed an open letter to lawmakers asking for a "stable and flexible" safety net for everyone.
Horowitz also offers an outline of the basics for creating a truly effective portable benefits system, including: Build it by and for the people; fund it for the long haul; make it truly portable, and keep it in check. As to the latter tenet, a portable safety net requires government regulation with fiduciary protection.
"When labor leaders, venture capitalists, tech CEOs and economists all agree on something, it’s time to take action," Horowitz writes. "Our economy is already charging ahead with new business models and tech innovations. In order to sustain that growth, we need to make sure its workers are also moving forward. Ultimately, a flexible economy needs a flexible safety net to go with it."
For HR and benefits leaders who work for companies that use so-called "gig economy" workers, these developments are worth tracking.