Benefits: When the retail industry outranks the gig economy

The highs and lows of being a new parent or caregiver in a gig world

Photo credit: Nappy Stock

For the Boomer Generation (and most of Generation X’s early years), losing any job meant the end of health insurance. But in a Millennial generation that has the opportunity to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance options are much cheaper to invest in than the mind-boggling rates of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). ACA doesn’t care whether you are terminated, involved in a layoff or voluntarily quit; the goal is just to keep you and your family insured.

And with the gig economy — specifically for tech-savvy workers — helping newly self-employed people make anywhere from $31.23 to $40.25 per hour, it’s very much possible to skip Corporate America altogether and just pay your own health expenses. Even non-tech savvy employees can make money from popular gig sites for everything from food delivery, ride-sharing, customer service, marketing and writing, and administrative work. And if you’re interested in the retail industry and crafty enough, you can ditch selling someone else’s clothes and artwork altogether and start your own Etsy business.

But one of the major downsides of gig work is still losing other job benefits. Unless gig workers have found passive income to avoid negative balances in checking and savings accounts, there’s no beating employment benefits for a family emergency or new addition to the family. When gig workers don’t work, they don’t get paid. It’s the life of a temp worker or commission-based employee. And it doesn’t matter how long a gig worker has been with a company or client; you get paid based off of current job performance instead of an accumulated balance.

Corporate America, including the retail industry, is well-aware of this. For gig workers who may be toying with the idea of going back into the traditional job industry, it’s not your imagination. Job opportunities are looking a little different these days.

And the retail industry is among many industries that are raising eyebrows. For example, after one year of employment, Levi’s employees can now receive up to eight weeks of paid time off to care for sick loved ones. This includes an ill spouse, domestic partner, (step)parent or (step)child up to 18 years of age.

Photo credit: Nappy Stock

Online retailers such as Amazon offer fully paid maternity and paternity leave options following the birth and/or the adoption of a child. Target extended its paid family leave and backup care benefits to part-timers. Intel increased paid-leave policies for new parents from eight weeks to 12 weeks, plus eight weeks of paid leave for seriously ill family members. And even Facebook has improved their benefits package with 20 days of paid time-off for employees to mourn an immediate family member’s death and 10 days for an extended family member. For former traditional employees who were used to three-day bereavement leave — and crossing their fingers in hopes their bosses don’t call them to work anyway — this is impressive.

All of the benefit packages above sound much better than the usual vacation and sick days that traditional employees are used to seeing, but why did it take so long to improve? Why wait until 57 million people dove into the gig economy to make traditional jobs seem more inviting to apply for? The easy answer for that could be that companies, such as retailers, are starting to understand that gig employees do not need them the way they used to. Gig workers have more power in creating their own schedules and their own pay, and are often leaving traditional work shifts and rigid benefit packages behind.

Is the gig economy realistic as Millennials and Gen Y gets older?

In an ideal world, gig workers have the power to be caregivers and parents by day and use their nights, weekends and holidays for steady income. But a lot of that income depends on what’s available at the time and what gig competitors are planning. Too often, gig workers get the short end of the stick no matter how well they work.

For example, a grocery delivery gig worker could make $18 to $25 per hour. But what if the grocery company decides to charge customers a lower percentage for a promotional deal? That lower percentage may come out of the delivery worker’s pocket instead of the company’s pocket.

Or, a freelancing website decides to start making gig workers pay to apply for jobs when they used to be able to apply for long-term and short-term work for free. No matter the industry, gig workers often rely on the company to keep current rules and regulations in place to predict a freelancer’s future income. If the company (or client) goes rogue, the gig worker gets hit the hardest.

For traditional employers, that hourly rate or salaried rate is the same no matter what. Then annual employee evaluations come around, and the employee may be up for a raise. In the gig world, that “raise” means working more hours or taking on a new talent. And according to a 2017 study from the Freelancers Union and the gig platform Upwork, 63 percent of freelancers were forced to take funds from their savings accounts once a month.

So gig workers are left with making a major decision: Do you want to risk it all and continue to work for gig companies that can change their policies on a whim? Or, risk returning to a traditional employer with better benefits — who can also terminate you on a whim, too? Depending on what’s going on in a gig worker’s life, better job benefits may outweigh the freedom. For others, revving the engine and accelerating through all the gig obstacles is the only way to go.

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We Need to Talk

Often oddball views on family, dating and activism.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

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Check out her six Medium pubs: BlackTechLogy, Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

We Need to Talk

Let’s chat about my oddball thoughts on family, relationships and activism — with a dose of comedy, too.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her six Medium pubs: BlackTechLogy, Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

We Need to Talk

Let’s chat about my oddball thoughts on family, relationships and activism — with a dose of comedy, too.

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