Outsourcing to freelancers

Sourcing freelancers for projects and urgent work is becoming an increasing aspect of the PA role, so it’s important to be up to speed on the issues involved, says Annabel Kaye

Legal, tax and ethical concerns can crop up with anyone in your organisation, but with an increasing number of people engaged on a self-employed or freelance basis, it’s becoming particularly topical.

Business can go badly wrong for those who ‘just tell people’ they’re self-employed and your organisation could face unexpected bills for tax and minimum wage, a damaged reputation and more.

Before you take on your next freelancer, take the following into consideration to ensure a safe, problem-free and mutually beneficial working relationship:

Limit freelancer access to only the data they really need, and prevent them transmitting or sharing your files. Data is as valuable as cash in the modern business world and the non-secure sharing of client data is not only unethical; it’s unlawful.

In a virtual world, it’s not always obvious where people are. If dealing with personal data, make sure you know where your freelancer is based.   You will need to make sure your data is not leaving the country without appropriate security and contracts being in place.

Make sure you’re not party to the exploitation of low wage labour. Check out the national minimum wage in your freelancer’s country. And remember, if you’re liaising through a third party, the worker may only be getting a fraction of what you’re paying, so it’s worth double checking.

Worker’s rights
Just because someone works for them self doesn’t mean they don’t have any legal or contractual rights.  These vary across the world and in general workers have less protection than full time employees, but don’t assume that someone doesn’t have rights just because they are a freelancer.

Your organisation will need an appropriate written agreement with anyone engaged on a self-employed basis. Ensure the paperwork reflects the actual working arrangements because this will form the basis of how the authorities would make their assessment of the worker status.

Are you paying your freelancer to create any documents? From customer lists and reports to graphics and e-books, copyright will belong to the freelancer by default, unless assignment to your organisation has been agreed in writing.

If you are selling the created material, or it would be an asset to your business, make sure from the beginning your company will own it.

For more information about the legal, ethical and practical issues related to outsourcing to freelancers, download a free copy of the EA’s Guide to Profitable and Ethical Outsourcing from www.kk2go.com/EAGuide17

Annabel Kaye is the founder of KoffeeKlatch, supporting businesses that outsource work to freelancers and use flexible working options.