The workforce might be more fluid than ever before, but that doesn’t mean workers shouldn’t get benefits. That’s the sentiment behind Facebook’s new policy toward contract workers, who are now entitled to a $15 minimum wage, 15 days paid leave, and financial support after becoming new parents.
These new rules apply to contract workers who are employed by any U.S.-based company but do “a substantial amount of work” for Facebook, presuming at least 25 people from that company work with the social networking giant, according to The Verge. This includes technical support firms and other third-party vendors.
Shortly after Facebook made the announcement, it was lauded by the White House. It’s not the same as full-time employment–and it’s not clear exactly what constitutes a “substantial amount of work” but it’s a start. Explains The Verge:
Though the new standards don’t cover everyone who does work with Facebook — nor do they match the benefits one would receive while actually working for Facebook — they’re still an important step toward dealing with income inequality issues in the US and Silicon Valley. That large teams right inside of Facebook’s headquarters didn’t previously have these benefits illustrates the problem acutely: contract workers may spend their days right alongside full-time employees while receiving vastly different pay and benefits. While Facebook doesn’t say what support teams have received the benefits, it’s likely that they may apply to security, maintenance, and food workers.
The policy shift follows moves from Microsoft, Google, and Apple designed to blur the lines between contractors and full-time employees. All of this is going down as the workforce becomes more distributed and fluid in general, with freelancers and “permalancers” becoming more and more common. According to a recent Pew Research study, the millennial generation is now the largest contingent of the U.S. workforce. This generation, feverishly coveted by marketers, is the first “freelance native” set of workers, who are accustomed to working outside the confines of the traditional 9-5 employment structure.
Of course, with that lack of formal structure often comes disadvantages like lower pay and fewer benefits. By embracing contract workers, Facebook and other tech companies are looking to correct some of the inequalities of the freelance economy and, in the process, aid productivity and loyalty by granting contractors some of the comforts and perks of full-time employment.