The Gig Economy Is Booming as Americans Search for Non-traditional Employment; It’s Time to Give Them Benefits

The number of independent contractors and freelancers, or gig workers, has grown exponentially in recent years and is likely to continue accelerating as a result of COVID-19, with approximately 30 million Americans already receiving their primary income from gig work. When COVID-19 hit, many US businesses found themselves more reliant on independent workers as a part of their critical workforce. The trend toward an increase in the gig workforce is anticipated to continue as American workers search for non-traditional forms of employment that can offer more flexibility and a healthier lifestyle.

“As business models shift, remote work continues to escalate, and flexibility becomes pivotal to the work experience; attracting, engaging and retaining gig workers will become more important to organizations.”

Research shows that more control over one’s personal and work life is a top priority for American workers, with flexibility being a key benefit. A recent study by Mercer and AECOM found that 56% of employees would consider resigning if flexibility is not maintained post-pandemic. On the employer side, in a recent poll of Mercer clients, nearly 65% of respondents anticipated that their gig workforce will grow over the next year, and have historically focused on targeting specific pay benchmarks and developing a specific talent value proposition for their contract workforce as a way to attract these workers.3

Given the labor shortage in the US, as organizations struggle with resourcing work they need to cast a wide net to allow as many people as possible with the right skills engage with them, on their terms. One way businesses can source a wider pool of talent is by offering independent workers certain benefits similar to the benefits offered to their employees, such as direct access to a suite of personalized insurance and other professional benefits.

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“Giving all the people who work for your company access to benefits is an effective way to attract, retain and engage your workforce,” said Ravin Jesuthasan, Senior Partner, Global Transformation Leader, Mercer. “Companies need to consider extending access to a comprehensive suite of benefits to their independent and gig workforces, which are becoming an increasingly pivotal talent pool for companies across various industries. By enabling independent workers to focus on their work and developing the skills needed to contribute, as opposed to the administrative burden of shopping around for benefits, leading organizations are creating a loyalty loop with this critical workforce.”

A recent Mercer survey of independent workers found that more than half (56%) of respondents were interested or very interested in a single sign-on platform to access insurance products and services. Further, 69% were interested in a customized insurance bundle based on an analysis of personal needs – and were willing to pay for those services. With the growth in on-demand platforms, an aggregated and guided shopping experience for insurance and professional benefits can be a competitive differentiator to simulate the experience of a traditional employee.

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“Gig or independent workers often are not eligible to receive employer-sponsored benefits, including health insurance, auto insurance, professional liability and more,” said Eric Bassett, Senior Partner, Association & Affinity Leader, Mercer.

“Many employers have traditionally avoided providing contractors with access to benefits for fear of blurring the lines between an employee and contractor. Mercer Indigo℠ provides a new and innovative solution to help employers minimize historical barriers, offering an alternative end-to-end benefits platform for an employer’s on-demand workforce, with access to a variety of non-sponsored/individual benefit solutions that contractors can take with them,” added Bassett.

“The on-demand workforce is more in-demand than ever before, and gig work is increasingly seen as a strategic growth driver for organizations. COVID-19 accelerated this workforces’ criticality to businesses achieving their goals and long-term sustainability,” added Jesuthasan. “As business models shift, remote work continues to escalate, and flexibility becomes pivotal to the work experience; attracting, engaging and retaining gig workers will become more important to organizations.”

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