The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Self employment benefits?

Had to laugh at one of the election promises, giving the option for the self-employed to opt into unemployment benefits and pregnancy/parental leave.

People who are not themselves self-employed often think of home businesses as some kind of ongoing vacation, and of self-employment generally as the freedom to work as many or as few hours as desired.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nine to five would be a vacation for most among the self-employed. Few work longer hours, because there is simply no choice. For the self-employed, there can be no belaying of responsibility, no assumption that a given task somehow disappears or will be taken up by the next shift when it is time to punch the clock. No matter how sick, no matter how tired, the contracts still need to be made and the required work still remains, and if they don't tackle it, no one will. The buck stops with no one but them.

Thus the only way a time-off benefit for the self-employed could possibly work is if full-time employees are reclassified into independent contractors, so that the company no longer needs to pay their benefits. For the original self-employed, those whose self-employment did not result from company restructuring, time off translates into time lost ... and then what becomes of a theoretical parental benefit?

So let's look at this election promise at what it really is: a sweetened deal to encourage regular employees to accept re-classification as independent contractors, which has few other purposes than to completely undermine employment security and ease the burden of benefits on businesses large and small.

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