Workforce.com

How To Make Contingent Work Arrangements More Equitable

November 1, 1998
In its report, "Nonstandard Work, Substandard Jobs," the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) based in Washington, D.C., documented the fact that certain nonstandard work arrangements result in jobs of distinctly inferior quality in terms of wages, benefits and job security. Moreover, groups of workers who already face discrimination and low wages are disproportionately employed in nonstandard work arrangements of the lowest quality.

"Even workers who need or prefer these arrangements," the authors of the report conclude, "should not have to accept low wages, few benefits and heightened job insecurity for fewer or more flexible work hours, nor should they have to forego the basic protections afforded regular full-time workers with respect to unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination protections and collective bargaining."

As the recent UPS strike indicates, workers in nonstandard work arrangements are now in a position to make their anxiety and demands known to companies. EPI suggests several new public policies are needed to safeguard workers in nonstandard arrangements. While many of EPI's recommendations are intended for public policy-makers, some of them can be adopted by employers that wish to take the first step in making nonstandard work arrangements more equitable. These include:

  1. End pay discrimination based on work arrangement, part-time/full-time status, or job title.
  2. Index the minimum wage so that it rises automatically with inflation or average wage growth.
  3. Expand family and medical leave to include workers in smaller firms or those working less than 1,250 hour per year.
  4. Maintain affirmative action and EEO policies.
  5. Improve fringe benefit coverage for nonstandard workers and make benefits more portable.
  6. Make child care affordable and available.
  7. Offer more flexible schedules for regular full-time workers.

Workforce, November 1997, Vol. 76, No. 11, p. 44.