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What is Contingent Employment?

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In a nutshell, contingent employment means that you are providing services for an employer, but you aren't technically an employee. The category of contingent employment can include temporary workers (or “temps”), consultants, freelancers, and other contract workers. In most cases, workers hired for contingent employment are brought on for a specific project. They sign a contract agreement to carry out the specified work, and then leave once the job is complete. Contingent workers can agree to work for a limited or open-ended period of time, and may be compensated by an hourly wage, by piecework or commission, or by a lump sum stipulated in the contract.

Advantages of Contingent Employment

Contingent employment offers a number of advantages for both the workers and the employers.

Advantages to Workers

The main advantage of contingent employment is flexibility. As a contingent worker, you are usually allowed to set your own hours, and are often trusted to do your work without close supervision from your employer. Since you're being evaluated (and compensated) based on a deliverable (rather than your time), you are often left to your own devices as long as you get the job done. This makes it much easier to balance work with family or other obligations. In addition, many assignments can be completed at home by telecommuting, which makes contingent employment a very attractive option to many job seekers.

Advantages to Employers

Contingent employment offers flexibility to employers as well, as it makes it easier for them to adjust their workforce to account for economic or seasonal fluctuations in the marketplace. Employers don't have the same legal obligations to contingent workers that they do to regular employees, meaning they don't have to contribute to payroll taxes or worker's compensation, and aren't required to provide retirement or insurance benefits.

Existing Protections for Contingent Employment

Even though contingent workers aren't entitled to the same rights as regular employees, there are still a number of legal protections in place to make sure disreputable employers don't take advantage of them. The same anti-discrimination laws apply for contingent employment as other jobs, making it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, national origin, or disability. The minimum wage laws, overtime pay requirements, and other fair labor standards are also in place for contingent workers. Finally, contingent employment workers are entitled to a safe workplace that complies with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) regulations.

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