Freelance: is employee status set to disappear?
They were ahead of a labor revolution. During the months of the health crisis, millions of employees slipped, sometimes with pleasure, into the clothes of freelancers: remote work, invisible or barely visible relations of subordination. Aside from the uncertainty of income, they experienced a kind of freedom that is the daily life of a million freelancers in France. And the season that closes arouses vocations.
“We set registration records this year, with more than 8,000 freelancers joining us every month at the beginning of this year”, assured Vincent Huguet, CEO and co-founder of Malt. The platform, created in 2013 under the name Hopwork, now connects around 200,000 tech, web and communications freelancers with corporate clients. It shares the market with several others such as LeHibou, Freelance.com, Indépendant.io, Crème de la crème… and at the end of spring completed a major funding round of 80 million euros to finance its European growth , but also expand its range of profiles beyond tech jobs.
Certainly, the health crisis has had a serious impact on these independents. 80% of auto-entrepreneurs experienced a 40% drop in turnover in 2020, according to the Union des auto-entrepreneurs. And many are struggling, especially in terms of their social protection, a very complex subject. However, this status and the mirage of freedom are more than dreams of wages. “The health crisis allows employees to turn away from their living and working conditions”, studies Vincent Huguet.
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A survey his company conducted among a thousand employees in February indicated that 4 out of 10 wanted to be a freelancer; for three-quarters of them, the health crisis was the trigger. Today, 30% of HRDs say they have to deal with employees who have moved during the crisis and are now demanding tailored working conditions under penalty of closing the door…
Mutant wage earner
Should we see here the place of the end of wage labor, predicted for several years? “It is too early to think about it, explains Sophie Bernard, professor at Paris-Dauphine University. before, it is the circulation between the two statuses. “A series of ‘one shots’ that, like atypical contracts in working, blurs the boundaries between work and freedom”, the researcher continued.
Already, thousands of slashers combine several statuses: these “permitted” employees look for freelance missions in addition to their permanent work, or manage a guest room in their free time with the status of micro-entrepreneur… The lines are competing, especially in the more traditional trades, sometimes now insured in services. Thus, start-ups transform students or job seekers into shoe sellers, distributors of flyers or cashiers, all micro-entrepreneurs.
Others specialize by sector, such as Brigad, in catering and medico-social, offering missions to waiters or caregivers who have become independent. Public services themselves sometimes seem to have lost hope of work, such as the Ile-de-France region, which opened a platform last year in partnership with StaffMe to direct unemployed youth towards independent mission.
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A bargain for boxes
On the business side, the trend is to use freelancers. This has become a mode of operation for some structures that want to remain light and agile. So Billy Bones, communication and creation agency of Paris: “We can’t recruit and we don’t want to, explains Erwan Durand, creative director. But we are at the heart of a network of freelancers that we mobilize according to projects — digital, content , communication, strategy consulting… By hiring the best experts and taking responsibility for the project, we can carry out very ambitious missions.”
The tenors of the CAC 40, the main customers of digital service companies (ESN) and consulting firms, are taking the fold. 85% of them, for example, use Malt, assures his boss. And 72% of companies maintain assignments for freelancers during the second wave of the epidemic, announced for its part Crème de la crème at the end of 2020.
- 1 million freelancers in France, up 11% in 2020
- 37 on average, with a third over 40, and a higher proportion of seniors in Germany and Spain
- 20% of the self-employed working in collectives
Source: Malt and Boston Consulting Group.
Many companies organize themselves to attract these experts. True, the profession of “chief freelance officer” is still more buzzword than reality in France. But tomorrow? Already, big names in consulting, Deloitte for example, have set up internal systems to better maintain their relationship with a pool of freelancers. “A dedicated team of three people manages a dedicated platform by choice and by validating the skills of freelancers, explains Franck Chéron, consulting partner at Deloitte. We’ve certified about 1,500.”
Over the past three years, the company has executed around a hundred projects with these first-class freelancers. “If the necessary skills exist internally, we favor them, the manager continues. In other cases, freelancing is a very flexible and relatively economical solution when compared to the costs of a salary or equipment, a desk. “
At TotalEnergies, we are convinced too. Vincent Dabas, who manages technical assistance purchases, has been on call at Malt for two years. His company has carried out more than 400 assignments with freelancers and he is particularly attached to his reputation among these stakeholders: “Our biggest satisfaction today is the particularly high score of freelancers in the interest of assignments entrusted to them by TotalEnergies”, he assured. .
Justice is involved
Well, the evolution of wage labor to freedom will not be a long calm river. In the case of low-skilled workers performing the same activities as employees, judges need to examine wage avoidance and labor law. They started doing this with VTCs and delivery people, specifically in March 2020 in Paris with Uber, recognizing the existence of an “employment contract” between the platform and one of its former drivers.
Jurisprudence needs to define more precisely the concept of a relationship of subordination – which consists of the power to give instructions, to control the execution of a job and to punish disobedience to the instructions – to decide on a possible re qualification in an employment contract. A platform like Side is also anticipating the movement by transforming itself as a “digital interim agency” in 2019.
Cases about freelancers exercising intellectual professions are also beginning to appear in the courts. They are associated with higher wage levels and reminders of charges. “These files are still rare but they are often very heavy financially for the client company”, confirmed lawyer Sabrina Kemel.
The end of the salary is not always a boon for the boxes!
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