By Kevin Zimmerman, featuring Independent Women’s Forum Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onkwuka

A new U.S. Department of Labor proposal aimed at clarifying whether workers should be classified as “employees” or “independent contractors” could have a major impact on how companies do business and pay their workers – although there are a number of “ifs” associated with the proposition.

“The Department’s proposal aims to bring clarity and consistency to the determination of who’s an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA),” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “Once finalized, it will make it easier to identify employees covered by the Act, while respecting the decision other workers make to pursue the freedom and entrepreneurialism associated with being an independent contractor.”

Acceptable trade-off?

Even so, a growing number of workers “understand and accept” that an absence of insurance and other benefits is worth the freedom they can enjoy as independent contractors, according to Patrice Onwuka, senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), a conservative nonprofit focused on economic policy issues that affect women.

“Being in control of their own time and resources outweighs that for a lot of people,” Onwuka declared. “It’s indicative of how the labor force is changing. Because of the changing workforce and workplace, people can work from anywhere.”

She said the IWF welcomes the DOL proposal, in part because “historically there hasn’t been a real clear definition” of what an independent contractor is.

“We believe that this will lead to providing workers with greater prosperity, economic freedom, and more control over their own careers,” she said.

Fulltime freelancers have steadily been growing, Onwuka added. According to Statista, that number is expected to grow from 57.3 million in 2017 to 64.8 million this year, and 79.6 million by 2025.

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