Imagine a future where senior living organizations have only a few frontline employees, maybe none.
Instead, this community of tomorrow is primarily staffed by independent contractors who show up for an hour or a few, and then leave. Some of these workers might even be willing to do two or three of these assignments in a single day.
Actually, that bizarre scenario may be a lot closer than most realize. And like so many other changes that affect the sector, its plausibility was sparked by an outside development.
The Labor Department released a letter this week noting that gig economy workers should be classified as independent contractors, not full-fledged employees.
As a result, the company addressed in the letter will not be required to offer the federal minimum wage or pay overtime, much less contribute to Social Security payments or provide health coverage.
The clarification obviously will affect firms such as Lift, Uber and TaskRabbit, which are known for connecting individual service providers with end users. But could it also impact senior living operators? It just might.
The department noted that it weighed six factors:
- the degree of control employers have over workers,
- the permanency of the relationship,
- the employer’s investment level in equipment,
- the skill level required to do the work,
- the worker’s potential to earn a profit and
- the integration of workers’ service into the employer’s business.
A legal expert I talked with said there is no reason why this ruling could not extend to a wider swath of industries, possibly even this one. He did note, however, that some creative interpretations might be required before senior living could become a setting where gig workers operate as independent contractors.
But that might not be a problem. For if there is one thing that is a universal in this sector, it is the creativity operators can harness in the pursuit of new opportunity.
For that matter, finding third-party tech companies to act as middlemen here might not be much of a problem either.
In fact, soon there might come a day when an executive director arranges a ride to the airport and sets up the afternoon shift on the same app.