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SurveyMonkey is going against Silicon Valley norms by providing its contract workers benefits that it used to only give its full-time staff. So reports CNBC.

While Rossy Vargas has worked for SurveyMonkey since 2011 at the firm's San Mateo headquarters, she is not a full-time employee. Rather, she heads up a cleaning company, Clean & Green, and is hired as a contractor.

But since January, SurveyMonkey has given all its contract workers from Vargas's firm and two other companies at its San Mateo headquarters health benefits, time off and transportation. Those benefits cover a total of 50 employees, including Vargas' team of 37.

Vargas' employees' health benefits from Survey Monkey include health insurance, dental and vision as well as paid-time off and sick leave. The coverage includes their families as well. While Vargas and her team do not participate in a 401(k) plan, SurveyMonkey provides its benefits consultant pro bono to work with Vargas to develop one.

Tech firms have come to rely on contract workers for projects where they need flexibility to quickly scale up or down, according to the CNBC article. There are about 39,000 workers in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who contract with tech companies.

"They weren't in a competitive position compared to all our employees," Becky Cantieri, head of human resources at SurveyMonkey, said in a blog post. "They're usually the first people I see when I come in the morning and the last people I see at night."

By focusing on hiring full-time staff solely for the core operations, employers can fill out the rest of their labor needs, including for software testers, finance managers and administrative assistants, as contract hires.

"Each year the contract penetration rate increases," David Chie, CEO of Palo Alto Staffing, said to CNBC. "There are a lot of resources that are project-based."

i2i Benefits, a company founded by Dan Maass, works with SurveyMonkey to provide workers benefits and has seen a lot of "pressure on companies to bring in more perks, more benefits, more unique types of offerings to retain and recruit employees," he said. But most companies are not focused on offering the same to their contract workers, he added.

One Silicon Valley giant--Google--relies heavily on contract workers who are distinguished by the red name badges they wear as opposed to the white badges worn by the company's full-time staff, Bloomberg reports. Ten former contract workers with Google noted that they were treated as permanent second-class workers who didn't have the same access to the benefits and perks as full-time staff.

Many contract workers have little to no real leverage or power to advocate for themselves. One firm is trying to help fill the benefits void for contract and freelance workers, CNN reports.

Trupo is a new service that aims to offer workers short-term disability insurance that can range from $20 to $50 a month. The contracts would be month-to-month and payments can be adjusted, providing greater flexibility for freelancers.

"I can't sign up for something where I'm going to be locked into a fee every month for a year," says Nyasha Wooling, a freelancer who runs her own web design business.

Sara Horowitz, founder and former director of New York-based Freelancers Union, founded Trupo. She realized that after polling freelancers it made sense to offer a short-term disability insurance product that covers half of the worker's usual income if they suddenly can't work.

"Freelancers fall outside the regular insurance world, because those worlds expect you to have a normal income," Horowitz said. "People are going into credit card debt, moving back in with a parent, because something you should just be able to handle, like a hiccup, turns into a catastrophe too fast."

Last modified on Saturday, 15 September 2018
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