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4 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Worker Misclassification

Worker misclassification is a complex topic. It does not always have a straightforward solution. Often, misclassification can be unintentional because businesses simply do not have a full understanding of the laws regarding how to classify their workers. However, it can also be done intentionally to reduce labor costs or avoid payroll taxes.

Regardless of why misclassification occurs, it can result in many negative consequences like legal battles and costly fines that can be detrimental to businesses. Follow these four tips to reduce the risk of worker misclassification and ensure your workforce is properly classified.

1. Learn Why Worker Classification is Complex

When it comes to classifying workers as independent contractors, there are many laws, tests, and guidelines that businesses are obligated to abide by. And, as the independent workforce grows, these laws are changing and evolving. That makes it challenging to understand what is required and applicable from both a local and national standpoint. As you make decisions about how to approach worker classification, it is important to keep this in mind.

The difference between independent contractors and employees

Independent contractors are viewed as a separate worker classification in the eyes of the IRS—they cannot be treated or engaged like traditional, W-2 employees. In general, independent contractors are engaged to complete a specific project with a start and end date, and are able to choose when, where, and how they complete that work.

2. Understand the Rights of Independent Contractors

An awareness of independent contractor rights can help you build a better classification process and avoid improper treatment of independents once they are engaged. Independent contractors may perform work for multiple clients, can openly market their services, pay their own taxes and provide their own benefits, and submit invoices for work completed, among many other rights.

Maintain the contractor-client relationship

Companies that engage independent contractors must be especially careful not to exert too much control over the work arrangement. Independents are responsible for performing the services outlined in their contract—exactly how they do that is up to them. Managers should avoid telling independent contractors how to do their job or getting overly involved in how the work is completed.

3. Review Current Classification Processes

When you need skilled talent quickly, it can be easy to turn to your own network or an online marketplace. This can be risky because rogue engagement and technology platforms that have not been vetted often lack the level of compliance needed to engage highly-skilled independent talent. By taking the time to perform an audit of internal processes for how independent contractors are engaged and classified, you can pinpoint flaws in your process, make sure proper contracts are being used, and that independents are carrying required insurance.

Make sure internal employees are educated

Education is a key part of ensuring independent contractor classification processes and procedures are being followed. Educate HR and enterprise managers on the importance of proper classification and how existing laws apply to their use of independent talent. Consider forming a cross-functional team to handle any misclassification issues that arise.

4. Use an Outside Expert

At the end of the day, worker classification is a big—and important—issue to tackle. Proper compliance goes beyond indemnification and adhering to classification laws and guidelines. Shouldering the burden of establishing a comprehensive worker classification program is a task that most enterprises don’t have the time or resources to commit to, and is why many chose to partner with an expert that can assist with these tasks.

Protect your business from misclassification

Staffing and consulting firms are often not equipped to handle the extensive investigation and provide the support that independent contractor compliance requires. Companies like MBO Partners have an established methodology to evaluate and engage independent contractors. Partnering with an expert has the added benefit of additional help compliance tasks: making sure contracts are fairly written and negotiated, that taxes are filed and paid, and that eligible expenses are properly submitted and deducted.