The freelance market has expanded rapidly in recent years drawn in by the flexibility of creating own schedules and skipping the 9-to-5 grind. While the gig economy attracts strong participation, many of the space’s workers and employers still rely on old-fashioned payment methods. The Gig Economy Index outlined that a significant share of employees are still paid using cash and checks, and the lack of additional options could inhibit freelance work. More than 84 percent of surveyed gig workers said they would take on more jobs if they were paid faster. The rise of smarter payment systems could shift the space toward more modern options, like direct deposit or real-time solutions, which could meet a gig worker’s need for speed. Dave O’Flynn, Chief Product Officer at Engage, recognises that systems used to pay freelancers must get smarter before they get faster, which involves streamlining the sometimes-complicated freelancer hiring process. “A very large percentage of the time, [a] recruitment agency will outsource some or all of the payroll to an employment business or a [professional employment organization],” O’Flynn told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “It’s a very inefficient and mistake-prone process.” Time to retire timesheets? Many inefficiencies involved in hiring and paying freelancers are tied to how they report their work. Companies are still using outdated timesheet forms, which O’Flynn noted. “Horrendously, in 2018, the standard way that all these people communicate is by emailing Excel spreadsheets full of sensitive, personally identifying information”. This can cause trouble if the wrong recipient mistakenly receives a file. O’Flynn also pointed out that if an old Excel spreadsheet file is submitted, the wrong worker could receive payments. In these instances, some workers may be paid twice while others go unpaid. Engage Tech addresses these freelance hiring process frictions with our cloud-based solution that automate work verification documents and payroll requirements. “The hard part is not filling in a timesheet,” O’Flynn said. “The hard part is making sure everyone involved with that timesheet sees it safely, correctly and securely without anyone doing double entry.” This automated verification approach prevents freelancers and gig workers from having to submit original documents or to verify and retain original copies. It also shields employers from potential data breaches or GDPR violations. In the UK companies can face fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, while employers can face up to five years in jail. Engages platform allows only relevant parties to view the necessary data until the assignment is completed. This helps securely store workers’ data on the platform and keep it from being shared or accessed by new employers until a new assignment is initiated. “The fact that it lives in one place, where everybody who needs to see it can see it,” he said, “takes away this whole informal network of horribly insecure practices around people’s private information.” Smarter payments, happier workers Removing cumbersome and manual identity verification elements in the gig economy can encourage more workers to participate, O’Flynn said. Another strong step, however, would be removing common payment frictions. Faster payment systems global rise is an encouraging sign that workers will encounter fewer payment process delays. O’Flynn is also interested in how digital banks develop services that utilize faster payments’ infrastructure. Services that deliver or come close to delivering real-time capabilities could have the most impact on freelancers’ lives. “If you’re filling out a timesheet as a freelancer, generally you’re filling out one timesheet per week and you’re getting paid maybe a week later.” While this arrangement might satisfy freelancers who are on high day rates, the wait is considerably more difficult for minimum wage-earning freelancers who face greater financial stress. The availability of near-instant payments could alleviate that stress and inconvenience by helping freelancers use their smartphones to digitally submit timesheets. Once timesheets are submitted and approved, funds can enter their accounts within two minutes to two hours, which keeps workers from waiting up to a week for checks. Removing common payment frictions also eliminates barriers to gig economy participation. “It becomes worthwhile to work one shift as a barista, one shift as a security guard or one shift as a nurse,” he said. “Being able to do hour-by-hour payments opens up a whole world that wasn’t previously there.” As payments become smarter, faster and more secure, they can also promise freelancers more stability and security, which could bring more participants into the gig economy.
Engage Tech is calling recruiters to streamline their compliance checking and recordkeeping as a matter of urgency with Brexit and its potential impact on Freedom of Movement just one of the hurdles agencies face in 2019. With a potential shortage of labour across a number of industries and the possibility for greater employment and right to work checks after 29th March 2019, recruitment firms need to ensure they have efficient processes in place now in order to limit the potential impact on their business. Ben Wardleworth, Business Development Director at Engage commented: “While we’re still relatively in the dark as to exactly what will happen once the UK leaves the Bloc, we can say with some certainty that there will be hiring challenges for most agencies. The likelihood is that right to work checks will become more stringent and possibly complex after our exit, and we would advise that agencies don’t take a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to their compliance procedures and record keeping. “Businesses sourcing EU contractors who are still unaware of their rights to work, could also see a drop in staff over the next few months. This means recruiters need to tighten their relationships with existing clients and candidates and utilise technology to gain visibility to all existing databases in order to remain competitive. Ultimately, compliance drives efficiency which in turn reduces costs. By ensuring that you, and indeed your clients, are recording the required information from workers and, crucially, that there is visibility of this in order to limit time-impacting duplication, firms can better weather the coming storm.”
Facilities management firms are turning to financial incentives to lure top contract talent as the Brexit vote drives EU citizens out of the UK. The staffing software supplier’s pay data has revealed that since the vote to leave the Bloc in 2016, hourly pay for skills-short roles has increased, with maintenance positions in particular noting an uptick in money. Handymen and mechanical maintenance professionals reported the greatest increase in the three years since the vote at 13% and 10% respectively, while electricians saw a 5% rise in hourly rates. This data has been revealed amid news from the CIPD that talent shortages are already being felt ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU next year. According to its latest Labour Market Outlook report, a third of employers of EU citizens have reported that the Brexit decision has led to an exodus of these professionals from their UK base. Drey Francis, Sales Director at Engage commented: “For Facilities management firms, maintaining reliable access to a team of maintenance professionals was already an issue before the Brexit vote. Since the decision was made to exit the EU, this issue has deteriorated further, with many of the FM firms we have a relationship with reporting that availability of these professionals is one of their biggest concerns going in to 2019. “Given how sparse some of the talent for these roles is in general, it’s perhaps no wonder that employers are turning to financial incentives to attract staff. However, this isn’t a sustainable approach. Of course, we still need to wait and see what happens in terms of the agreement on the Freedom of Movement for the UK, but action can be taken now to improve staffing efficiencies in order to better cope with the expected upheaval in Spring 2019. For example, where FM businesses have widespread operations, there are often resources that can be utilised in other locations, but a lack of visibility of this information is preventing hiring managers from tapping into these staffing pools.”
In light of the growing demand for fully integrated VMS and Agency Back Office systems, Engage has secured a second round of investment of £5 million as tech specialist investors seek to support the continued growth of our cloud native platform. This latest news comes at a time when we have seen our client base increase three-fold in 2018, underpinned by a 50 per cent rise in headcount across the software engineering team. Howard Hughes, CEO commented on this latest success: “The significant growth in our client base so far this year really is testament to the fact that people are looking to invest in disruptive technology such as ours which lets workers, hirers, and agencies collaborate from vacancy through to employee pay – and it’s clearly working. In fact, during this year to date weekly transactions processed through the Engage VMS and Agency Back Office platforms have doubled. “Securing this second round of investment will enable us to support existing and new customers going forward, we’ll be channelling these funds into increasing headcount in our engineering and client on boarding teams to ensure the first-class service we offer continues.”
Integrating online identity verification into Engage’s SaaS recruitment platform streamlines time-consuming and manual verification process with state-of-the-art verification technologies. As recruiters will be aware, right to work checks are a compulsory step in the UK recruitment process. Applicants must supply original identity documents, which must be verified as valid, copies retained and a record made of the date the check was made. This manual process can be time-consuming for hiring companies and exposes them to potential data breaches and GDPR scrutiny. The maximum fine for hiring illegal workers is £20,000 per illegal worker and employers knowingly hiring someone who does not have the right to work in the UK could face up to five years in jail (whereas the illegal worker would face six months). Employing the same technology used by EasyJet, Monzo and WeWork the integration enables Engage to automatically verify passports, ID cards, biometric residence permits and other forms of identification from over 200 countries to verify workers’ eligibility and actual identity. Workers receive an email or text message invitation to provide their ID and right to work documentation via unique URLs, linking them to the Engage platform, where they can upload or use a camera to take pictures of their documents and of themselves. The automated verification process is then run by Jumio’s Netverify solution, while workers are kept in the loop via notifications. As a PCI-DSS compliant solution, Jumio is also helping Engage meet the stringent data protection and privacy requirements of GDPR. “Our mission is to connect end-hirers, agencies, payrolls and workers on a self-service platform that seamlessly navigates the entire recruitment process with incredible efficiency, from vacancy to billing,” said Alex Fraser, Marketing Director at Engage. “Working in partnership with Jumio, we're able to provide instant verification to prove that employees are who they say they are and can now offer the necessary compliance with right to work regulation to our clients, especially in the contingency staffing market." Ensuring that every employee has the right to work in the UK is one of the core duties of an employer. It’s not an extra, or a nice to have: it’s essential for all businesses, regardless of size or industry sector. Integrating a secure and reliable identity verification solution helps Engage deliver a more complete solution to its business customers, comply with the Home Office guidelines, avoid compliance penalties and reduce the likelihood of regular spot checks by the HM Revenue & Customs.