Do you work part-time? Are you self-employed? Do you pick up temporary gigs instead of putting 40 hours a week in an office or at a work site?
If your work looks different than the typical full-time position, you do what’s dubbed, “atypical work.”
Basically, this means your work agreement looks different than what was once the norm – a full-time, permanent position with an employer. The term atypical work is most commonly used in Europe but has gained popularity in the U.S.
Favorable or problematic?
Workers who participate in atypical work often find it’s a flexible option that gives them a better work/life balance. They’re also able to explore a variety of roles and employers to find their true career passions.
Employee advocates, on the other hand, claim those involved in atypical work are disadvantaged. Why? People who work less than full-time are usually ineligible for the benefits enjoyed by typical workers. Those benefits include unemployment insurance, overtime pay and a steady, predictable income.
Health insurance, paid sick leave and other benefits are rarely offered to employees who aren’t full-time or to those without “employee” status.
So who’s taken advantage of?
Some employees who are perpetually at the cusp of full-time hours – yet are kept just below by their employers – may feel they’re taken advantage of when they see their counterparts work only a few more hours a week to enjoy the benefits afforded to full-time employees.
Employers may feel they have to offer atypical work to keep up with flexible benefits offered by some of the most innovative and successful companies. But just because they offer it doesn’t mean they like it.
Most managers prefer a consistent workforce, readily present and productive, if only so the company can predict how much it will pay in salary and benefits.
How atypical workers offset negatives
Consider the benefits afforded to most full-time workers and consider how those benefits can be obtained by someone who works less than full time.
Retirement, for example, should be aggressively planned and saved for. Without the benefit of an employer-sponsored 401(k) or pension program, retirement is a scary proposition. Seek the help of a qualified financial adviser to get you on track with retirement savings. The sooner, the better.
If you do it right, compound interest over a long period of time can make up for the absence of employer contributions to your retirement.
Health insurance can be obtained through the Healthcare Marketplace (HealthCare.gov). You must enroll during one of the specified enrollment periods unless you have a qualifying life event or if you’re eligible for Medicaid.
Most people are eligible for subsidies to reduce their health insurance costs. This make the cost much less than an individual policy purchased without the Marketplace’s help.
Disability insurance can be purchased fairly easily and fills another gap typically covered by employers. The earlier you purchase a policy, the less it likely costs. It’s a worthwhile expense, though, especially if you’re the family’s main source of income.
Look before you leap
Working an atypical job (or jobs) can give you some flexibility to make work more pleasant and fit into your life a little better. But it’s also a sneaky way for companies to not give you the same benefits given to full-timers.
Know what you’re getting into before you enter the world of atypical work. And be ready for the potential challenges you encounter.