We all know that the world of work is changing. More and more employers are using independent contractors and freelancers to fulfil the function of traditional full-time employees. However, as we’ve written previously, these individuals do not fall under labour law. As everyone has a constitutional right to choose the way that they earn an income – provided it is not illegal – it is against the law to take advantage of their sector of the economically active population (EAP) simply because there is no legislation protecting them.

International developments relating to independent contractors

The UK has made strides in addressing this conundrum of the status of independent contractors. Says Amanda Arumugam in an article entitled How the gig economy could shake up employment law:

“Seeming to shed light on this topic in the UK, the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was released in July this year with the hope of addressing the widespread deprivation of employment rights in the gig economy. Prime Minister Theresa May had requested Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, to conduct an independent review into how employment practices in the UK need to change to keep pace with modern business models.”

No such investigation has happened in South Africa as yet. Until this happens, the waters in terms of independent contractors remain murky. Until the status of independent contractors is clarified in South African labour law, ensure that – with respect to everything that you engage independent contracts to do – you have something in writing. This documentation needs to, for example, detail the nature of the work that you’ve hired the independent contractor to do for you, how much you will pay him, when he or she will be paid by you, etc. If you don’t do this, you could very well end up in a nasty situation where one of you could dispute the terms and conditions of your agreement. If you don’t have anything in writing, it becomes extremely difficult to prove what the initial agreement was.

Make sure that you do what you promise to do

The community of freelancers and part-timers is very close-knit. They know that it is very easy for them to be taken advantage of by clients which means that they stick up for each other. So, if you don’t hold up your end of an agreement you reach with a freelancer, you’ll be branded in the community as a client not to be trusted. This means that when you put more enquiries for freelancers out, you won’t get anyone who accepts your offer. So be careful what you do!

At our Employment Conference on 8 March 2018, we’ll be discussing what you need to know in terms of how to navigate the traditional employment law landscape with this new world of work in existence. To reserve your seat, follow this link.