R Street brief refines principles for the future of work in the sharing economy

WASHINGTON (Nov. 10, 2015) – Stable and flexible benefits are good for workers, business and society and public policy should encourage firms to compete across all dimensions to attract labor, according to a new policy brief from the R Street Institute.

Authored by R Street Western Region Director Ian Adams, the brief builds on the principles laid out in today’s open letter to policymakers from the Portable Benefits Working Group. R Street took part in crafting the open letter, working with partners from the worlds of business, labor and academia.

“A policy framework that provides workers and firms with much greater flexibility is crucial in light of ongoing litigation,” Adams said. “Legislatures, not courts, are the appropriate venues in which to write the next chapter in the future of work.”

Adams notes that markets could respond to the proliferation of new business models and shifting worker preferences by providing a portable vehicle, such as a benefits exchange, for worker protection and benefits, which would be crucial for non-employee workers. He asserted the importance of addressing flexible benefits now, with an eye toward individual autonomy.

“We believe employer-employee relations should be defined by individual contract, rather that relying on statutory, regulatory and common law definitions,” he said. “If a company or platform passes a number of tests, there should be a strong presumption that the company is not an ‘employer’ under the law.”

Adams warned of the very real risk that litigation will subvert efforts to provide enhanced compensation.

“It’s both timely and necessary for policymakers to examine proposals to facilitate a more flexible future of work. Fundamental change requires a hard-won consensus, but we favor incremental steps to achieve these goals,” he said.

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