TRENTON – The Senate Labor Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton that would establish a system of portable benefits aimed at ensuring that the hundreds of thousands of freelance workers employed in the “gig economy” are afforded the benefits and protections provided to other workers. Portable benefits are employee benefits that can be tied to the person, rather than the work, and thus be maintained from job to job.
The number of Americans who work as independent contractors, freelancers, or temporary employees increased by 31 percent between 2016 and 2021, according to McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey, equivalent to a total of 58 million Americans. Establishing a system of portable benefits would represent a modernization of the benefits system that reflects changing work patterns.
“New technology has yielded a modern economy that allows greater flexibility and greater opportunity for independent contractors, but because many of their jobs do not come with health insurance, retirement plans, or paid sick days these workers are left more vulnerable than many of their counterparts in the traditional workforce,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “The way that people work may be transforming, but the notion that all workers deserve to be treated with respect and should have access to benefits that will foster their long-term well-being has not changed.”
The bill, S-1386, would establish a system of portable benefits funded by employer contributions to qualified benefits providers. Qualified benefits providers would be required to provide certain benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement benefits, to covered workers. These organizations would be required to be a non-profit, demonstrate viability and financial stability, and be independent from all entities or individuals that would pursue any financial interest in conflict with the interests of the workers.
The bill was released from the committee by a vote of 3-0.