Here we go again…

The power shift. The pendulum swing. The force of hand. 

Just when the dust was starting to settle in this new post-pandemic era, someone comes along to rain on our parade all over again. Just when you thought you were finally in control, the rug is swept from right underneath you.

The new buzzword, “Contract-for-hire,” is the culprit. 

And it’s very clever. Perhaps a little sneaky. Hey, maybe downright manipulative.

Why can’t things just go back to the way they were? 

One of life’s all time leading questions. 

We’ve all asked it before — about anything. It's because we remember, cherish, and really miss a time when things were just, well…simple. Our houses were in order. Everything seemed so much better. 

And this is precisely what companies and organisations have been asking ever since covid changed everything. CEO’s and shareholders alike would donate a kidney for things to go back to the way they were. 

The time where they held the power. They were in control. Their system had been working just fine for donkey's years. 

Then all of a sudden they lost it all. Employees started leaving, people launched their own venture, others chose new careers. Many held their employer to ransom…saying “either meet these new terms…or I walk.” 

For the first time, us workers got a little taste of the power.

To be fair, we knew something like this was coming 

It was bound to happen sooner or later — a cunning move from employers and the marketplace to lure us all back. 

Are these new “contract-for-hire” proposals simply dangling carrots? Are companies trying to lure us freelancers into their lair, dismantle our way of life and take away our freedom? Okay, that might be a bit dramatic but hear me out…

Companies are very aware that we’re enjoying our “new way of working” — so they’d have to offer us something that on paper seems enticing, but in reality you wonder who is really benefiting. 

Here’s what we’re being sold, let's say, with a 3-month contract-for-hire. The perks are:

  • Fast-track our experience and strengthen our skillsets

  • Determine if a role is the right for us, before fully committing — get a little taste of the company, the same way they are getting a taste of us

  • Increase our employability — great opportunity to brush up on our interviewing skills and meeting deadlines etc

  • Broaden your professional contacts and network. Build relationships

  • Gain access to new skills that can be transferred to our other projects etc

  • Attain perks of company benefits (perhaps a little private healthcare for 3 months?)

Not bad, eh? What’s all the fuss about? 

I know what you’re thinking — “Yea, what’s the catch?” To be honest, there’s something worse than a catch….there’s the potential for exploitation.

Many will rightfully believe these contracts could be exploitative

Let's be honest, the word ‘corporation’ doesn’t exactly fill us with joy, does it? For too long we’ve been in a system where one day we are a longstanding, dedicated employee highly valued at the organisation. Then the following morning, we’re told our services are no longer required and we’re tossed aside like nothing more than a dispensable economic unit. 

Now we see these same organisations, as many would have you believe, knowing exactly what they are doing with these contract-for-hires that are glistening with…“we’re doing this for you, not for us.”

Many are seeing right through it, and calling them exploitative. These ‘evil corporations’  can simply use us for a set period of time, try before they buy, and simply decide whether they wanna keep us or not — then rinse and repeat with another vulnerable worker. Either way, they win. They get what they want. They take back the power.

But, in the spirit of being fair and objective…

Now, before we all start jumping on the bandwagon and hit the streets to join the protest — I think it’s only fair we ask ourselves if we’ve got a leg to stand on. 

From the employer’s perspective, these contract-for-hires kind of make sense — particularly in this whacky new world. 

Even well before covid, many companies were in amid a massive battle with this new digital age. It was only yesterday when they were market leaders in their professional services, then the next day they lose half their customer base due to being replaced by a smartphone app. 

Not only that, but they are also operating in an era where, for lack of a better term, employees had become job-hoppers. We have zero intention of showing any loyalty or future with the company, and would merely be there for a couple of years, then bounce at the sign of the next opportunity. This drives the employer nuts. 

Or even if you look at places like France and other countries around Europe, it’s super difficult to fire an employee due to all sorts of red tape and complications with workers’ rights. Yes, of course the worker should have rights, that is fundamental, I’m just saying what if this employee became a big liability, and you had grounds to sack them? 

Now, all of a sudden, us workers have the power to boot in this new world. 

Do these contracts, if I’m being objective, sound kind of reasonable? 

As a freelancer, the cons of the contract don’t really phase me

  • Lack of full-time equivalent benefits

  • Not feeling part of a team; “outsider syndrome” and never feeling like you are truly included in company decisions

  • Risks and costs associated with a contract that is new, untrialled, and unregulated — you’re kind of operating in the dark, hoping it all works out. 

  • Less job security. More vulnerability. 

  • No severance packages. 

Can you think of any more? 

As a freelancer, I have to be honest — looking at these negatives doesn't really change anything for me. My entire existence literally has all of these cons already….so what’s the difference? 

For me personally, it sounds quite attractive to get steady pay for a set period of time, and have some focus for one particular ‘big client,’ if you will. Then even if they love me at the end of it and want to keep me, I simply say “no thanks…I’m good.” 

Even if you are looking for full-time work, ask yourself how the contract-for-hire is any different from a probation period in a traditional commencement of employment?

When it comes down to it, I think it’s the PR that is the issue

As the title of this article suggests, my take is that this is the real issue here. 

It’s not so much the contract-for-hire on face value, it’s the emotional manipulation behind it. The PR. The fact they are trying to make it sound like these contracts are better for us, not the company…when in fact, we can call bullshit on that.

We always feel they're hiding something...even if just under the surface. 

If the employer was just to come clean with it and say… “look, here’s the situation…so here’s our offer. Take it or leave it," in broad daylight— I think people would simply respect that more than being lied to. 

To be fair, imagine we actually lived in a world where that was the case, eh? (Yea…keep dreaming, pal).

At the end of the day, everyone will have their own take on these new contracts. What's right or wrong for you, will be the opposite for someone else. 

But remember, if you’re damn good at what you do — well, you’ll always have the power anyway. 

Never forget that.

Feature: Romain Dancre
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