As freelancers, a major struggle is pay. This notion is just simply ridiculous. We are doing work and therefore we expect to be paid for the work we do. Unfortunately in most countries there aren’t strict measures to ensure that we aren’t a legalised ‘minimum’ or even ‘standard’ rate. 

Well, for freelance residents of New York State, that nightmare, overly common scenario of being unpaid despite the paperwork is about to become a thing of the past. 

The Freelance Isn’t Free bill is a bold, audacious, and totally refreshing move that will hopefully lead the way on supporting freelancers and the self-employed, NY’s Council has just approved legislation which gives the following protections:

  • freelancers must be paid by the agreed date, or within 30 days of completion of the work;
  • freelancers being paid $250 (£206) or more must receive a written contract from the business engaging them;
  • a labour department enforcement mechanism will be set up to help workers recoup unpaid wages.

Essentially the law stipulates that freelancers must be paid promptly for work, receive contracts for that work, and have some legal recourse (through the labour department enforcement) for non-payment.

In terms of how the bill was spurred, New York Assembly member Emily Gallagher’s tweet gives us a fantastic insight showcasing empathy and compassion. She tweeted: “I was a freelancer for many years. Juggling invoices, taxes, schedules and the work itself is complicated enough. But worst of all is the rampant wage theft. Everyone deserves clear contracts, timely pay and legal support.”

What’s also fantastic about it is that the new law doesn’t just apply to freelancers based in New York, it also applies to any freelancers who are contracted by companies based in the entire state of New York. 

Beyond the issue of payment being covered, there is also a provision that prohibits companies from retaliating against freelancers who seek payments based on the rights they have been granted through the law. Significantly, and potentially of interest to the UK’s Small Business Commissioner whose teeth and ability to really bite offenders some have questioned, companies that violate any of the law’s provisions are subject to penalties of up to $25,000. 

According to the bill, NY state freelancers from writers, editors and graphic designers to videographers and other creatives are some of the “most exposed” when it comes to wage theft. But hopefully not anymore, because the Freelance Isn’t Free Act will play a key role in holding hiring parties to account.

At the time of writing, the legislation (New York Bill S8369) has passed both the State Assembly and the State Senate, meaning it is now set to be delivered to the governor for either signature or veto.

So, what now? Well, while we are celebrating the Stateside victory here across the pond, we hope the UK and other EU governments take note in order for us to live a lifestyle alongside those of employed workers. 

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