Dave Barker: The age of the contingent worker and how employers can create a more inclusive culture

The EU Parliament recently approved groundbreaking legislation, which is set to take effect in April 2020. New laws will improve the rights and working conditions of contingent workers. The main drive is to increase transparency and provide better protection for these currently atypical workers. This change signals a new direction in the modern workforce. With the Gig economy accounting for 4.7 million workers, it is a trend that is growing very rapidly. Employers must be ready to cross paths with the contingent workforce in the not too distant future.

Not only are the numbers of contingent workers increasing rapidly, the rapid adoption of new technologies into many markets puts pressure on the time available to train new employees. This is where contingent workers come in. They can satisfy the skills shortage, bringing the latest knowledge along with their adaptability to enhance the existing workforce. This fresh energy and drive can result in a rebirthing of innovation.

With contingent workers taking their new place in the flexible working world, HR departments must learn to be flexible when it comes to managing them. This includes making sure that all workers feel included and aligned with company values and to feel that they belong in the company. HR will also need to provide the transparency and clarity of responsibilities in order to utilize this group of workers to their fullest potential.

Unpacking the new mandates

Employers have three years to align with the directive, whose main components are listed below. It is important to note that self-employed workers are not affected by the legislation.

    • Information on the work’s essential aspects to be provided within one week.
    • The probationary period limited to six months.
    • Right to work for other employers, with a ban on exclusivity clauses.
  • The right to receive compensation in case of late cancellation of the agreed work assignment by the employer (for workers with variable work schedules).
  • Right to cost-free mandatory training.


The EU legislation provides contingent workers with basic minimum rights; the ‘hard’ lines. But for employers to benefit from these changes, they will need to solve the other aspect, the ‘softer’ one. It is the emotional aspect, which makes these workers feel included and as if they are a valued part of the company. How can employers and HR departments as a whole ensure they make this select workforce feel included? Here are four actions they can take:

Creating a sense of belonging

By enabling and welcoming open communication with all employees, by ensuring everyone is using the same line of communication, an increasing sense of belonging can be created. This demonstrates clearly that employers are placing great importance on the work and presence of contingent workers. It shows that employers want to give everyone the opportunity to make a difference to the company.

Advances in communication technologies are providing companies with new ways to harness the idea of a connected workforce. The new technologies allow easier communications, which can provide the essential transparency and connectedness required by Contingent workers.

Establishing clarity and consistency

It is a difficult challenge to enable a similar sense of belonging that regular employees may benefit from. One thing that helps is to quickly establish clear expectations and understanding around the role and the work do be done.

By developing stable lines of communication with contingent workers, companies may also find their communication efforts improving for all employees. Stable lines of communication can deliver what everyone needs to know about responsibilities and the tasks to be done. The communications need to be frequent, timely and inclusive to ensure everyone is up to speed.

Predictability – providing transparency and intent

The new legislation requires that employers provide workers with transparency and appropriate information around the roles and work to be done. In addition, there must be a minimum level of predictability referenced around the predetermined number of working hours and days. The law also states that contingent workers have the right to refuse, without consequence, an assignment outside of the predetermined agreement. If an agreed assignment is canceled without sufficient notice, compensation for lost earnings will be due.

With all of the provisions included in this legislation, employers have no choice but to create a higher level of transparency with their contingent workforce. This change will enable compliance with the law but it will also make life a little easier and more fair for Contingent workers.

An unexpected tool: calendars

It seems simple, but when everyone keeps their calendar up to date it provides transparency throughout an organisation. If calendars can be shared with contingent workers too, then the necessary transparency becomes easier to achieve. Schedules of work and meetings shared online provide the pulse that keeps efficiency and effectiveness alive.

With Brexit on the horizon, the UK has made it clear that this legislation will be applied and maintained even after Brexit. If you are an employer in the UK working with a contingent worker in Spain, you will have to abide by that country’s legislation for contingent workers. In the era of a global workforce, employers in the UK will need to pay close attention to the country of origin for those contingent workers they do business with.