New York becomes the first state in US to protect freelancers against non-paying clients.
The Freelance Isn’t Free Act requires written contracts for freelance jobs, lets freelancers file complaints against non and late-paying clients with the Department of Labor Standards and gives penalties to clients found guilty of non-payment in a small claims court. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act passed with 51 votes on October 27th.
The Freelance Isn’t Free Campaign launched in September 2015 at Brooklyn Borough Hall and after a year of collective campaigning, freelancers can now celebrate their victory.
For the past year, freelancers have come together to spread awareness and share their all-too-common stories of non-payment and exploitation at the hands of clients who often profit from a freelancer’s hard work.
8,000 freelancers signed the Freelance Isn’t Free petition which pushed the bill to a vote.
With 38% of workers in New York City working as freelancers, this was an important bill to pass. 55 million Americans are freelancing across the country, and this campaign hopes that other states will follow suit and move to protect freelancers against non-paying clients.
Across the pond
In the UK many freelancers have found that non-payment is still a common part of this industry. Creative freelancers in particular are often asked to work for free in exchange for exposure or experience, despite many having years of experience and solid portfolios.
A recent survey from The Freelancer Club and the Association of Independent Professionals and the self-employed (IPSE) found that freelancers lose over £5k per person per year due to working for free. This included pre-agreed free work and cases of non-payment.
This survey was created as part of the #NoFreeWork campaign which is working towards ending the exploitation of freelancers at the benefit of their clients.
IPSE are calling for a Small Business Commissioner to be appointed as soon as possible so that issues of non-payment can be addressed specifically. This would give freelancers someone to turn to and file complaints when necessary.
Working for free is not only making life difficult for individual freelancers but is also devaluing the whole industry which in turn affects the economy.
45% of those survey found that they struggled to cover work related costs. 40% even struggled to cover basic living expenses. With that in mind, it’s unsurprising that 21% had been forced to return to paid employment because of the financial struggles of freelancing. This is a considerable amount of entrepreneurs that the economy is losing simply because they don’t have sufficient legal protection tailored for people workings as freelancers.
Why is late or non-payment such a common problem? This is probably because of the way that people view freelancers. There is a tendency to see them as casual workers and not serious business owners. Because of this, people seem less inclined to keep up with payments or sometimes even expect free work.
However, with growing numbers of people turning freelance, the hope is that attitudes will change. If the government were to commit to improving legal protection for freelancers, attitudes may change more quickly and freelancers won’t have to struggle as much to receive fair pay for their work.
What do you think of the vote outcome? Would you like something similar in the UK? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.