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The Rise of the Gig Economy

By Michael Klazema on 4/25/2019
According to Forbes, 36 percent of United States workers are now a part of the so-called gig economy. By next year, NASDAQ expects that figure to hit 43 percent. This rapidly-growing segment of the workforce represents one of the biggest shifts in the labor market since the industrial revolution.

The gig economy, characterized by freelance work and other short-term contract “gigs” as opposed to long-term full-time or part-time jobs, is changing the way that many Americans think about work. For both employers and job seekers, it’s also posing another question: what are the best practices for background screening in the gig economy?

Background Checks and the Gig Economy
Uber is one of the first big case studies in the gig economy regarding the feasibility of short-term and on-demand jobs and background checks for gig workers. On the one hand, Uber has been incredibly successful in disrupting an industry and providing a new way for people to make money. On the other hand, Uber has faced controversy for its background check policies and missing red flags that may have kept dangerous individuals off the road and away from Uber customers.

Uber has revamped its background check model several times—most recently adding an ongoing criminal monitoring aspect. What the company has proven is that background screening in the gig economy is essential.

At first blush, many companies considering wading into this growing job market assume that background checks for freelancers or contract workers are not as important as checks for full-timers. After all, background checks do cost money, and businesses are naturally more willing to make that investment in hires who they believe will be sticking around for the long term.

Gig workers—no matter how temporary—are still the face of your organization. Uber has learned this fact firsthand, as its brand name has been associated with a series of robberies, sexual assaults, and other crimes. Your company may not consider a contract worker to be an employee for tax purposes, but you still have a responsibility for every hiring choice that you make. Background checks are a must for any gig economy hire.

Designing a Policy for Background Screening in the Gig Economy
The good news is that designing a background check policy for gig economy workers doesn’t have to involve a brand-new vetting equation. Most businesses can use similar policies to what they have in place for full-time hires. Criminal background screenings are the priority in most employment cases, gig jobs included.

If there is a difference, it’s the fast turnaround time that gig work often requires. Your business may be looking to get a contractor working on a new project ASAP, which means you also need a background screening tool that delivers quick results.

At backgroundchecks.com, our US OneSEARCH service perfectly fits the bill. This product includes a search of 600 million criminal records from throughout the United States (plus Washington DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico) as well as information culled from sex offender registries and terrorist watch lists.

Other background checks may also be advisable depending on the company and the job. For instance, a ridesharing company like Uber needs to look at driver histories. You might also wish to verify key resume information, such as employment history and education, or contact a few references to learn more about your prospective gig worker.

We offer these products and more at backgroundchecks.com. You can also use our Contractor and Vendor Screening page to tailor a screening solution to your gig workers.

If you have any questions about devising a smart policy for background screening in the gig economy, feel free to contact us.

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