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Are contingent workers the ‘poor relation’ at your organisation?

Engagement | Wellness

Posted on: Friday October 02, 2020

The eighteenth of September marked International Equal Pay Day 2020 – a reminder that while progress has been made, we are still some way from achieving equal pay for work of equal value.

In recent years we’ve seen increasing focus on pay discrimination related to gender, ethnicity or disability. In this era of greater transparency, employers are rightly keen to demonstrate their commitment to fairness when it comes to employee compensation.

However, the question of fairness comes up again when we consider treatment of staff who aren’t employed within the traditional model: salaried employees, employed directly by the company, working a fixed number of hours. Our workforce also includes part-time workers, zero-hour staff, temporary workers, agency staff, the self-employed, and the wider gig economy.

These contingency workers often feel like poor relations when it comes to their employee benefits package. Many organisations now have a situation where they have a full-time employee receiving all of the company benefits and perks, sitting next to a temporary worker who does all of the same jobs but doesn’t get life cover or sick pay.

This feels incongruent in today’s environment, to seemingly recognise that individuals have different circumstances for work, without remunerating or protecting all those different statuses consistently.

Organisations that want to do the right thing should consider the offer they make to contingency workers in a new light. Are we treating everybody fairly? Is this what our business stands for?

Becoming an employer of choice

It’s also worth considering how this reflects on your employer brand, both internally and externally. Fair treatment of all employees, regardless of how they are employed, will carry forward well past their days as an employee and turn them into brand ambassadors.

Your company’s reputation drives more than results. It drives the ability to build the workforce for the future and to connect with customers who increasingly value the type of company they buy from.

So consider:

  • Is there an internal disconnect between groups of employees on different terms?
  • Does this make it more difficult for everyone to feel part of the team?
  • Are you doing enough to integrate contingency workers into your workforce?
  • Why should a contingency worker choose to work for you instead of a competitor?
  • Would a traditional employee and a contingency worker both agree that your organisation is a great place to work?

The argument for employing contingent workers often revolves around cost saving. Yet contingent workers who feel undervalued, both financially and personally, are less likely to feel loyalty to their employer. Workers’ productivity will suffer and they are more likely to leave the role if they feel their employer is not rewarding or recognising their contribution. As such, a high turnover rate and lost productivity negates the cost-saving rationale behind employing people on these terms in the first place.

Hence, for both moral and business reasons it’s worth reconsidering how you manage your contingent workforce. Giving them access to a more comprehensive reward offer will mark you out as an employer of choice whilst securing the long-term resilience of your workforce.

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