Benefits for contract employees

You can demand freelance benefits when you’re doing the same job as the fulltime employee sitting next to you. That’s what freelancers at the MTV Networks did a number of years ago. They walked out over this issue, as did other employees at Viacom. The company relented just before employees at its owned television stations were about to walk out.

How a group of freelancers demanded and got freelance benefits

Contract employees—called “permalancers” at Viacom— walked off the job at MTV networks. They demanded and eventually received workplace benefits. That’s because those permalancers worked fulltime and performed the same work as staff members they had supported for less pay and no work benefits.

Here’s how to determine if your freelance job deserves benefits.

Before you take off a shoe to bang on your desk demanding workplace benefits for yourself, you need to determine the difference between your freelance gig and a permanent employees job by asking yourself five questions:

  1. Did the employer train you for your job?
  2. Do you work on the employer’s premises?
  3. Do you use your employer’s tools or equipment?
  4. Do you need to be the one performing the services in question?
  5. Do you file oral or written reports?

If your answer to those questions is “yes,” you can demonstrate that you’re being wrongly classified as a freelance employee and demand the same benefits that staffers get.

But keep in mind that while the law says your company is not required to give you job benefits, it does require that your company treat you the same. So if one worker gets benefits, so should you. You need to be clear about the job you’re doing and any differences between your job and the permanent employee’s.

Benefits for Freelancers

Employees at Viacom mentioned above were really employees without benefits. This is a growing epidemic that’s keeping wages and benefits low. Corporations save money by replacing downsized staff members with freelance employees who do the same work as the full timers do.

The IRS doesn’t like it. That’s because the way workers are classified determines how their taxes get paid as well as whether the employer pays worker’s compensation, Social Security, taxes, and overtime.

Unlike contract employees at Viacom, you might not be in a position to organize and threaten to walk out. But you can think about building your own benefits through the Freelancers Union and what it can do for you.

If you’re out of work and are thinking about becoming a freelancer, you should try it out at the beginning of your search while you still have income from a benefits package or unemployment insurance. You’ll learn best practices for building a successful freelance business in my book, Your One-Minute Job Finding Coach. I’ve devoted three chapters to this topic: “How to Get a Job through Staffing Agencies,” “Temping as a way of life,” and “Flying Solo.” Click here to order.

Copyright ©2016 by Ransom (Randy) Place

About the Author

RANDY PLACE IS A JOB-FINDING and executive coach, writer on career topics, broadcaster, and host of For twenty-three years, he helped thousands of employees who had been let go from JPMorgan Chase find jobs. And he coached executives at CBS Television, Pitney Bowes, and major outplacement firms in New York on job-finding techniques, communications skills, and selling strategies. An accomplished seminar leader and speaker, Randy has designed and presented workshops on interviewing, telephoning techniques, job-search writing, and sales training nationwide. Randy's groundbreaking nationally syndicated radio series, Your Career Service, has been heard on over two hundred radio stations across the United States. And his articles on career topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly. A former broadcast journalist in New York, he has also been a commercial spokesperson for an array of national and regional advertisers. In addition, Randy was a sales executive at NBC Radio and the New York City sales manager for syndication at Wolper Productions. He holds a Bachelor's in Sociology and Broadcasting from Syracuse University, and a Master's in Journalism from New York University.