Extending DEI to independent contractors

16 December 2021
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For many employers, the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion start and end with those they identify as formal employees. This is no longer an economically viable nor a morally consistent position for employers to take in the 21st century. Moreover it undercuts some of the basic premises of an inclusive workplace where choices  and methods of working are facets of diversity to be valued and respected as much as demographic differences.

Until  a decade or two ago, as far as the law was concerned, people who did work or performed services for an organisation were either employees or independent contractors.

Broadly- speaking, employees work on the premises of the employer, use the employer’s equipment and have their times and mode of working precisely defined. They are entitled as a matter of law to a range of benefits and protections. Independent contractors determine their own workload, hours and supply their own equipment. They look after their own obligations regarding taxation and must provide for their own welfare in connection with their work.

Now a third category has emerged and is growing rapidly and these are the so-called “gig- workers” which refers to a compendium of workers often engaged through digital platforms and includes consultants, contractors, temporary and contingent workers. sometimes styled ”independent workers“.  In England and Wales the number of people finding work through online platforms has trebled in the last 5 years to 4.5m. Many of these are now demanding some of the legal rights accorded to employees and this has already happened in California.

But just as important is the imperative to recognise that equity and inclusion must extend to everyone who works for a business or organisation in whatever capacity. For most organisations making use of a range of workers the functioning of all of them is highly interconnected, integrated and often seamless. Everyone contributes to the culture of the organisation. Where there is a high level of inclusion these independent workers are keen to give input and to act to enhance the brand of the organisation. Furthermore viewing the strategies and processes from an external perspective they are uniquely positioned to add value.

It, therefore, makes perfect sense that employers ensure inclusion and a sense of belonging is extended to all who do work for them. Those organisations which do will profit in many ways. Those who do not will find that they become just another statistic in the Great Resignation.