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The extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits expired — but gig workers and self-employed Americans still qualify for benefits

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For the first time during the pandemic, weekly jobless claims dipped below 1 million, but there are likely many more Americans who qualify for unemployment benefits who didn’t apply.

When the $2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and other nontraditional workers became eligible for unemployment benefits. Even though the federally-funded $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits, which was also part of the CARES Act, expired on July 31, these types of workers can still collect state-level unemployment benefits through the end of the year.


‘There is definitely a chance that the loss of the $600 is changing claimant behavior’


— Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project

This nuance may have been lost in translation when the $600 benefit expired, said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy organization focused on workers’ rights.

“There is definitely a chance that the loss of the $600 is changing claimant behavior,” she said, meaning that unemployed workers may have wrongly assumed that they would no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits after July 31. A total of 10 million Americans have already been approved for unemployment benefits who otherwise would have been ineligible if not for the CARES Act, Evermore said.

Unemployment benefits are based on how much money a worker earned while they were employed. For traditional salaried workers, that amount gets automatically reported to state workforce agencies. But self-employed and gig workers often lack the ability to provide an exact net earnings amount, Evermore said.

“But if they can prove that they worked and got income or were offered a job and that job offer was rescinded due to COVID-19,” she said, they can collect what amounts to half of the average weekly unemployment benefit in their state.


In all 50 states and Washington D.C., the minimum amount is over $100 a week

In many cases that will enable them to collect more in unemployment benefits than they would if they had a traditional job where their earnings were reported automatically, Evermore told MarketWatch.

At a minimum, gig workers, independent contractors and other self-employed workers can collect the equivalent of the average weekly benefit in their state. In all 50 states and Washington D.C., the minimum amount is over $100 a week, according to the Department of Labor. That’s especially important because it means these types of workers will be eligible for an additional $300 a week under President Donald Trump’s executive order. (Anyone who gets at least $100 in unemployment benefits from their state would qualify for the extra $300.)

However, it could be some time before these workers actually get those benefits. State governors have said that state workforce agencies are not properly equipped to quickly implement the changes Trump’s executive order calls for.

Evermore said she hopes that Congress will consider extending the period of time gig and self-employed workers can collect unemployment benefits, but she is “worried we will reach a deadlock on this in December like we are seeing now with the $600.”

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Gig economy workers demand fair conditions

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James Yang is still angry over the road deaths of five colleagues at work who suffered the same pressure he felt as a food delivery driver.

The Chinese migrant worked for Hungry Panda but says the company booted him off the app after raising concerns about conditions.

Mr Yang earned as little as $12.50 an hour working 12-hour days.

He and fellow gig economy workers met with politicians at federal parliament on Thursday, campaigning for the same rights afforded to other workers.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese believes gig workers should be given the minimum wage and greater scope to access other base employment standards.

He urged the Morrison government to stand up to Uber and Hungry Panda in the same way it took on tech giants over the news media bargaining code.

“What we can’t have is a circumstance whereby we have two industrial relations systems,” Mr Albanese said.

“One that has pay, one that has annual leave, sick leave, one that has conditions that most Australians take for granted, and another whole section of society who are marginalised, who don’t enjoy any minimum wage.”

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said he had a great deal of sympathy for Mr Yang but he’s not going to tell him there’s an easy fix.

He said the Fair Work Commission had consistently ruled gig workers were contractors and not subject to the same conditions as employees.

Mr Porter said media code negotiations with Facebook and Google were years in the making after a consumer watchdog inquiry.

He noted the cost to business of changing the gig model and impact on consumer pricing as key complexities in regulating the sector.

Rideshare driver Malcolm McKenzie said gig workers didn’t have the same avenues to pursue unfair dismissal.

“Drivers face the possibility of termination through the app as a result of a fallacious claim against them, unsubstantiated claim against them,” he said.

Delivery driver Ashley Moreland said he faced losing his job if orders weren’t met on the company’s timeline.

“It really is time that laws caught up to the technology and that we brought some rights to this industry,” he said.

“Because I think it’s a bit of a shame that in a modern developed democracy, we have this situation of third world work.”

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Gig workers to form 20% of finance workforce in next five years

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More than half (52%) of financial institutions say they expect to have more gig-based employees in the next three to five years, according to PwC’s report, ‘Productivity 2021 and beyond: Upskilling the workforce of the future to create a competitive advantage in financial services’.

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Gig economy to supply fifth of financial services workers by 2026

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Up to a fifth of workers in financial services could be gig economy employees within the next five years globally, new research by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests (PwC).  After surveying 500 financial services businesses, the researchers found that slightly more than half expect to have more gig-based employees – such as online platform workers – over the next three to five years.  The gig economy currently supplies just 5% of talent in financial services, but PwC expects this to rise to between 15% and 20% by 2026, driven by continuous cost pressures and the need to access digitally-skilled talent.  Crowdsourcing – which typically involves using the internet to divide work between many different participants – was also highlighted as a key contributor to improve productivity by the survey respondents.  Half of businesses said they had leveraged the practice, up from 21% in 2018, of which 80% said it had added “high value” to their organisations.  John Garvey, global financial services leader at PwC US, said that COVID-19 and remote working have “opened the door to accessing talent outside of a firm’s physical location”, including outside of the country.  “What we are seeing now is a talent marketplace for gig workers in financial services, competing to take advantage of their specialist skill set and boost productivity within their businesses,” he continued.  “Leaders in the industry are looking seriously at their workforces to evaluate which roles need to be performed by permanent employees and which can be performed by gig-economy workers, contractors or even crowd-sourced on a case-by-case basis.”  However, challenges remain for financial services businesses wishing to take on gig workers, which will require overcoming several obstacles.   The survey found that the most common issues for businesses include confidentiality concerns, a lack of knowledge, regulatory risk, and overall risk avoidance.  Garvey said that few full-time employees and an increasing percentage of gig-economy talent and skills that they

Up to a fifth of workers in financial services could be gig economy employees within the next five years globally, new research by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests (PwC).

After surveying 500 financial services businesses, the researchers found that slightly more than half expect to have more gig-based employees – such as online platform workers – over the next three to five years.

The gig economy currently supplies just 5% of talent in financial services, but PwC expects this to rise to between 15% and 20% by 2026, driven by continuous cost pressures and the need to access digitally-skilled talent.

Crowdsourcing – which typically involves using the internet to divide work between many different participants – was also highlighted as a key contributor to improve productivity by the survey respondents.

Half of businesses said they had leveraged the practice, up from 21% in 2018, of which 80% said it had added “high value” to their organisations.

John Garvey, global financial services leader at PwC US, said that COVID-19 and remote working have “opened the door to accessing talent outside of a firm’s physical location”, including outside of the country.

“What we are seeing now is a talent marketplace for gig workers in financial services, competing to take advantage of their specialist skill set and boost productivity within their businesses,” he continued.

“Leaders in the industry are looking seriously at their workforces to evaluate which roles need to be performed by permanent employees and which can be performed by gig-economy workers, contractors or even crowd-sourced on a case-by-case basis.”

However, challenges remain for financial services businesses wishing to take on gig workers, which will require overcoming several obstacles. 

The survey found that the most common issues for businesses include confidentiality concerns, a lack of knowledge, regulatory risk, and overall risk avoidance.

Garvey said that few full-time employees and an increasing percentage of gig-economy talent and skills that they can access on-demand, are making organisations far more innovative, nimble and cost-efficient.

“Many of the most valuable companies in the world share one thing in common: they have embraced the platform economy as a business model,” he added.

 

Image credit: iStock

Author: Chris Seekings

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