The New York Times recently covered a big step in the future of health care reform: A mental health parity law was passed in the economic bailout bill signed by President Bush on Friday, October 3rd. Health insurance companies, currently able to refuse covering treatment for a wide range of serious mental illnesses by claiming it not to be of medical necessity, will be required to offer equal coverage for both mental and physical illnesses. The law is designed to take effect by 2010.
The Wall Street Journal has a great piece today on how to get what you’re owed by clients. As always, the best remedy is prevention: setting clear expectations about payment when you work out your contract. But if the person or company using your services doesn’t abide by the planned payment schedule, you can do more than just send a strongly-worded email. Some tips from the article:Offer incentives: Maybe a client who pays early gets a small percentage off the bill.Offer penalties: If the contract specifies late fees, send a reminder of the consequences along with the first bill.Call and write: Don’t just send a reminder by letter or email.You can also check out–and contribute to–our forum thread on clients who don’t pay. When we surveyed independent workers about this issue in 2007, 77% of respondents reported experiencing a problem with nonpayment at some point, so there should be plenty of resources right here from our membership.
And check back soon for the new campaign page in our Advocacy section.
For all you independent workers who are currently unable to access unemployment benefits, here’s your chance to bring attention to the issue. The deputy commissioner for employment security for New York State’s Department of Labor, Nancy Dunphy, is taking questions this week on unemployment benefits through the City Room blog of The New York Times. Ask how the New York State Department of Labor is working to meet the needs of of independent contractors and other workers who can’t collect unemployment benefits. Let us know if you’re posting comments on nytimes.com–and better yet, if you’re getting answers.
In last year’s survey of over 1,500 independent workers, 19% of respondents had become freelancers because of a lay-off (while 33% started freelancing because it’s standard in their industries). Has this number increased over the past year? Every year or so, we need to take the pulse of our membership. As the economy ebbs and flows along with various industries, the makeup and needs of our members shifts, too. This info is a huge help when we craft political campaigns or talk to journalists. Please take the survey today and get counted.
Will you no longer be able to do independent work in the state of Massachusetts? According to an organized group of freelancers in the state, a new law could make it impossible for you to be hired as a freelancer. Misclassification of true employees as independent contractors results in a loss of benefits and protections, from health insurance to unemployment insurance, for the individual. However, there is a clear place for independent contractors in the new, mobile workforce [pdf], and they should not be wrongly classified as employees either. (For a quick overview of employees vs. contractors, check out the Small Business Administration website.) The proper classification of all workers is necessary, but will this proposal be at the cost of true independent contractors? Find out more about this Massachusetts proposal and take action. While Freelancers Union continues to grow, we can’t be everywhere at once, so we’re thankful to our members who help advocate for the greater freelance workforce and bring specific issues like these to our attention (thanks, Erin!). We welcome your input here, on our blog, as well as through the “Issues That Affect the Independent Workforce” forum thread.
Freelancers Union is featured on tonight’s NewsHour on PBS. Executive Director Sara Horowitz speaks out about the lack of a social safety net for freelancers, who make up one-third of the workforce. Get a preview and check your local listing for the time and channel.
Not only have we seen an influx of new freelancers here in the U.S., but the UK is experiencing an emergence as well. More than 1 million people become self-employed in the UK since 2008; that’s one quarter of all self-employed in that whole country. Read on. Now, will policy makers address their needs?
Forget hearting NYC (sorry!); apparently Austin is the number one city in the U.S. for creating and developing small businesses, according to the Austin Business Journal. Over the past few years, Austin’s population grew by 20.2% (only Raleigh grew faster); its job base grew by 9.3% (the third-fastest); and the number of small businesses grew by 1.5% (no other city did better than 0.6%). Admittedly, these stats aren’t a total surprise to us. Right now, we have 3,136 members in Texas, with a good portion from Austin, and we totally dug the scene when we were visiting in March for SXSW. (photo by lloydi, via Flickr)
It’s been difficult these days for workers of all ages to find work, but older workers have faced particular challenges, according to this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek. More than any other age group, older workers have remained unemployed for ninety-nine weeks or more, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and one in every three seniors earn less than $22,000 a year, according to the National Council on Aging. My own academic specialization was in public policy for the aging, and I know that older workers often come up against ageism. You’d think older workers would be valued for their experience, but some prospective employers can be skeptical about an older worker’s technical skills. At the same time, older workers can overcome some challenges to finding work by using their long-running networks and revamping their resumes. Wendy Enelow, co-author of Expert Resumes for Baby Boomers, suggests highlighting the most recent fifteen years of work on your resume. For those who’d eventually like to land a full-time job, signing up to work through a temp agency might be a good bet—one temp agency saw as many as forty percent of their temps hired as employees. We know some even offer health insurance. What have your experiences been? Are you freelancing because you were forced out by ageism? Or did experience give you the wings you needed to fly solo? (photo by Horia Varlan, via Flickr)