Workers’ compensation is a somewhat complex system but the basics are easy to understand. To summarize: An employer carries special insurance to ensure employees’ livelihoods in the case of workplace injury. However, the issues are slightly different for freelance work.
Strictly speaking, Wisconsin freelancers are not eligible for workers’ compensation programs. This is simply because, legally speaking, they are a different type of worker — they operate their own personal businesses that provides services to other entities. The fact that some companies misclassify employees as freelance or contract workers complicates this matter, however.
While home offices, coffee shops or personal vehicles are not typically dangerous, there could be risks involved in working in these places. As discussed in this article from Entrepreneur, there are many health hazards that could be present in an average freelancer’s work environment:
- Lack of activity
- Improper ergonomics
- Unhealthy habits compared to regulated worksites
It is often up to the workers to mitigate these risks. Sometimes they even go to the extent of carrying their own disability insurance. Companies or individuals who hire freelancers might provide educational materials to promote healthy habits, but these are often presented as suggestions rather than directives.
According to Mic, companies might save up to 40 percent on payroll costs utilizing freelance workers, in some cases. Those savings come in part from lowered insurance and taxes — companies do not need to provide workers’ compensation for their non-employee workers. With this in mind, hiring private contractors could be almost too tempting a deal to resist for many different types of businesses.
The Mic article also covers another important point: the rampant misclassification of freelance workers. Freelance workers often gain freedom and flexibility by forgoing the benefits of employment contracts. A federal or state audit could determine the nature of a worker’s employment, and therefore whether he or she could be eligible for benefits under workers’ compensation law for injuries sustained on the job.