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Advisory committee on gig workers meets for first time, does not rule out laws to protect workers, Politics News & Top Stories

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SINGAPORE – A committee tasked to look into protections for gig workers, including delivery riders, private-hire car drivers, and taxi drivers, is not ruling out legislative changes in working towards a fairer and more balanced relationship between such workers and the companies they work for.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Koh Poh Koon, who is adviser to the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, told the media that the committee will consult widely so that it can come up with a balanced set of recommendations by around the second half of next year.

When asked what will come out of the committee’s work, he suggested that some of the recommendations may involve legislative change.

He also stressed that the committee, which met for the first time on Wednesday (Sept 15), is still in the early stages of its work.

The committee, which was first announced during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally last month, has zeroed in on three priority areas.

It wants to improve retirement and housing adequacy of such workers, ensure they have adequate financial protection in case of work injury, and close the gap in bargaining power between such workers and the platforms that they work for.

Economics professor Danny Quah, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and vice-chairman of the committee, said: “Many of these (workers)… lack basic job protections in a way that’s quite different and unequal relative to other kinds of workers in our economy.

“So some of (our work) is simply a matter of levelling the playing field.”

As self-employed people, platform workers contribute about 8 per cent to 10.5 per cent of their income to their MediSave, but the companies they work for do not have to make Central Provident Fund contributions for them.

Such workers are also at greater risk of accidents and injury, by virtue of being on the road more often.

As they are not considered employees, they are also not covered under the Employment Act and are not able to form unions.

This means they have no access to the collective bargaining and dispute resolution mechanisms provided by the unions.

Institute for Human Resource Professionals chairman Goh Swee Chen, who chairs the advisory committee, hopes platform companies will recognise the important role that such workers play in their business.

She added that consumers are also becoming more discerning and will also look not just at the benefits that the platforms bring, but also at how they treat their workers.

“Ensuring their well-being is not just a pro-worker stance, but it also helps the sustainability of the business as they continue to grow and prosper in this particular segment,” she said.

To take in the views of platform companies, such as Grab, foodpanda and Deliveroo, the committee will form a resource panel through which these stakeholders can provide feedback directly.

This arrangement would allow the competing platforms to participate more openly and even share commercially sensitive data than if they were all on the same committee, Dr Koh said.

He added that the committee would work with these companies to gain a deeper understanding of the workers through their work performance data, such as how long they work and what their average earnings are.

A key issue that many countries have had to grapple with is how such workers can be afforded basic protections while still allowing them the flexibility of working for several different companies.

Acknowledging the concerns of the workers and the platforms about how the recommendations may impact their work and earnings, Dr Koh said: “We do want to make sure that we don’t end up over distorting the market place, and to preserve some of the flexibility that both the platform operators and workers desire.”



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Maura Healey approves gig economy ballot question but fights idea in court

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“We better be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Jessica Hill
Attorney General Maura Healey remains in a dichotomy after approving a ballot that would make gig economy workers independent, but continues to fight against Uber and Lyft in court to make drivers employees. Jessica Hill / AP

On Sept. 1, Attorney General Maura Healey gave the go-ahead to a ballot question that, if approved by voters, would maintain gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, as independent contractors.

At the same time, Healey and her office continue to spearhead a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft that accuses the rideshare companies of denying benefits to workers — whom she believes should be classified as employees, not contractors, under Massachusetts law.

On GBH’s Boston Public Radio segment “Meet the AG” Tuesday afternoon, host Jim Braude asked Healey to clarify the two simultaneous actions.

“We better be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Healey said. “Under the state constitution, there’s a process that allows regular folks to go ahead and get things on a ballot for a vote, and that happens every year … There may be litigation, there may not be litigation, but that’s just the hat that I wear as attorney general.”

Healey noted that her job is to review the ballot question’s language and to see whether or not it satisfies the legal requirements to make the ballot, regardless of her personal preference.

The ballot question garnered much attention in recent months as supporters — including a coalition of app-based businesses like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart — argued that by keeping workers as independent contractors, the workers would be able to have more freedom with their job and set a minimum earnings guarantee. 

Opponents of the ballot question — like Healey — have said that it would continue to allow gig economy employers to provide less security for those who work for these companies. Throughout the pandemic, these companies have seen pushback from both gig economy workers and users on the treatment of employees. 

“As the economy grows, and work and the type of jobs change, there’s something they have to abide by,” Healey said. “We need to continue to treat workers fairly in this country, we need to make sure they’re not exploited.” 

Healey’s lawsuit, which was first announced in July 2020, asserts that rideshare drivers and similar workers should qualify as employees rather than independent contractors under Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws.

In the lawsuit, Healey said her fair labor team determined that, under state law, gig workers should have access to minimum wage, earned sick time and other benefits and labor rights an employee would have. In March, the Suffolk Superior Court denied Uber and Lyft’s motion to dismiss Healey’s lawsuit. 

“Yes, gig workers and the gig economy are super convenient for all of us as consumers, right. There’s a price for that. And as we move forward with this gig economy, certain principles have got to abide. That’s why we have employment laws here in Massachusetts, and that’s why I’m in court against Uber and Lyft,” she said.



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This futuristic gig platform is owned by workers who keep 100% of earnings – The Hustle

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Five basic but essential steps to help take your side gig to the next level

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The pandemic isn’t crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s fuelling it.

People normally tied to a desk or working double shifts used lockdown to launch side hustles, often out of necessity. And some have turned those side gigs into full-fledged businesses.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 427,842 new business applications were filed in August 2021 alone. That figure was 288, 026 in August 2019.

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While a side gig can be spontaneous, growing a legit business requires research, planning and organization. Otherwise, your fledgling enterprise could crash and burn in a couple of years.

These basic but essential steps can help you take things to the next level and give your new venture a shot at staying power.

CHOOSE A BUSINESS STRUCTURE

There are six common types of business entities: sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, C corporation, S corporation and limited liability company. The option you choose determines how your business is taxed, as well as who is financially responsible if your business is sued.

Entrepreneurs often default to sole proprietorship because it’s the easiest, but it’s also the riskiest, says Nellie Akalp, CEO and co-founder of corpnet.com, a document filing service that helps streamline the business formation process for entrepreneurs.

“There is no registration required nor are there corporate requirements,” Akalp says. But “there is no legal separation from the company, so the sole proprietor is personally responsible for any debts or liabilities.”

Registering as an LLC or corporation is more expensive and requires more paperwork, but it shields your personal assets from lawsuits.

OPEN A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Mixing business and personal finances can get messy, especially when it comes to filing taxes or securing a business loan. Open a business checking account to keep business income and expenses organized and easily accessible.

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Look for a business account that has low or no monthly fees and fits your business needs in terms of transaction and deposit limits.

A business credit card can also help you track expenses and identify tax deductions. Plus, you can earn rewards, like cash back on gas, office supplies and business consulting services.

UPGRADE YOUR BOOKKEEPING

No more manual spreadsheets or shoeboxes full of receipts; scale up to an accounting software that can do some of the heavy lifting for you, like tracking cash flow, managing invoices and generating reports.

Expect a learning curve with any new system, but know that it will help your operation run more smoothly. The right accounting software can also give you deeper insights into your business and help you identify weak points and opportunities to save money.

“Accounting is the language of business, so invest time and money into understanding how to do your books,” says Danetha Doe, founder of Money and Mimosas, a financial education platform for independent contractors, freelancers and small-business owners. “As a business owner, learning how to manage your company’s finances, read profit and loss statements, and understanding cash flows will make you a better entrepreneur.”

SPELL OUT YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

Your side hustle may have started organically, but turning it into a full-fledged business requires research and planning.

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Sketch out short – and long-term goals for your business, along with a sales plan, financial projections and potential roadblocks. Be realistic, set specific targets and spell out how you plan to reach them.

Building a business plan gives you a road map for how to grow your business. It also shows lenders you’ve done your homework should you need to secure a business loan.

Need help with your business plan? Turn to your local Small Business Development Center. These outposts are run by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offer free business consulting services.

INVEST IN PROFESSIONAL HELP

Entrepreneurs, by nature, wear many hats. But you don’t need to wear all the hats.

Outsourcing some aspects of your business frees you up to focus on other things, like customer service or product development.

Not hip to social media? Consider hiring someone to build and manage your business’s presence on Instagram, TikTok and the like.

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Do tax forms make your eyes cross? Invest in a certified public accountant to file for you.

“CPAs may be more expensive than doing taxes on your own, but it will be done right,” says John Pham, founder of The Money Ninja, a personal finance website. “Plus, they will maximize your tax deductions, which will most likely give you a higher return than the cost of a CPA.”

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

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