Language Traps: Avoid Sending the Wrong Message

workforce questionAs we’ve explored the unintended consequences associated across the Compliance Continuum, there is no escaping the emphasis that government agencies are placing on proper classification of the contingent workforce. Without a universally defined standard and among a myriad of “tests” to determine whether a worker is an employee or nonemployee, it’s easy to be confused on the status of your company’s relationship with key talent.

In any relationship, communication is critical. There is an easy way to ensure that you and your hiring managers are speaking the same and most appropriate language.  When it comes to communication in a relationship, let’s face it, you should say what you mean, and mean what you say.

You Usually Say You Should Say
1. Hire 1. Engage / Contract With
2. Assignment 2. Project / Engagement
3. Fire 3. Cancel / Terminate
4. Duties, Tasks, Responsibilities 4. Services
5. Manage, Supervise, Direct 5. Administer / Oversee
6. Pay Rate 6. Payment/Fee Schedule
7. Tenure Policy / Length of Stay 7. None (see below for better word(s))
8. Travel & Expense Policy 8. None (see below for better word(s))
9. Pass / Fail (relating to IC compliance) 9. Qualified Independent Contractor or W-2 Employee
10. Right and Wrong (regarding information provided about a project) 10. Accurate and Inaccurate


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Points to Note:

Independent Contractor (IC) tenure policies – these are not strictly necessary. As long as the contractor continues to maintain a business, and continues to be treated independently regarding the services provided, the services can be provided indefinitely. Think about technicians who provide desktop support to a company (and to many others); you shouldn’t have to find a new technician every nine months in order to comply with tenure rules.

Client Travel & Expense Policy – ICs should negotiate what expenses are covered under a contract for services and which aren’t, independently of policies that are set by a company. It’s up to the manager to make sure that whatever they agree to fits within company policy.

Take it from ICon: The use of the correct terms when speaking about your independent contractor engagements is important, but easy.  The hard part is making sure that the behavior matches the words. That’s what the IRS, and other state taxing authorities look out for.

MORE: M&A and the price of IC mislcassification

Catherine Chidyausiku

Catherine Chidyausiku
Catherine Chidyausiku is VP of compliance and corporate administration, ICon Professional Services.

Catherine Chidyausiku

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