How to Adapt Payroll Systems to Accommodate Gig Economy and Freelance Workers

The gig economy by age group and gender

38% of gig workers are in the 18-34 age group. This group includes students and recent college graduates who are looking for a more flexible work arrangement. 

The next-biggest group of gig workers – a quarter of the total – is the 35-54 age group. Just 11% of freelancers are over 55. 

The least financially secure freelancer group is Gen Xers. Compared to 32% of boomers and 49% of millennials, 63% say they struggle financially, and almost two-fifths admit making ends meet is hard. According to 40%, freelance work makes it difficult to budget reliably. 

The gig economy has not been spared the gender wage gap. Across all fields, women make 84% of what men earn. They are also more likely to work as freelancers: 31% vs 18%. 

Serious changes to payroll systems are needed 

As the gig economy changes, the constant inflow and outflow of freelancers is affecting businesses’ payroll functions. A lot of businesses are making major changes in their payroll department to accommodate independent contractors, but even more changes are needed. Here’s how businesses need to adapt their payroll systems to accommodate gig workers and freelancers. 

Dealing with different hourly rates 

Freelancers expect to be paid according to the type of work. If they are doing two different types of work, they expect to be paid at two different rates. For a business, this adds a new complexity to how to calculate hourly pay. If the business does payroll in-house, it might have to ask different departments for input in calculating a freelancer’s payment. Outsourcing payroll can be a perfect solution for calculating payment.

Accounting for data privacy 

The growing gig economy is causing data privacy issues and security gaps. Many companies struggle to control personal data overload as more workers are hired for short-term commitments. This makes data exploitation more likely. Some companies are opting to outsource payroll services to cope with the pressure.

Flexible payment solutions

Most freelancers request payment as soon as work is done. That’s actually one of the reasons people take gigs. The corporate world’s payment cycle fails to match gig workers’ expectations. Almost a third of US employees have freelance work as a primary engagement. Gallup research suggests that the figure is around 29%. Around a quarter of these employees work full-time. These people prioritize flexibility in work schedules and expect flexible payment. The demand for flexible payment solutions increases as the gig economy grows. 

Integrating employee benefits 

More than half of US gig workers do not have access to employee benefits such as medical insurance, dental insurance, and life insurance. This leaves them vulnerable to financial risks. Specifically, just 40% get medical insurance, a quarter get dental insurance, a fifth – life insurance, and just 5% receive insurance for short-term disability. 

Paying accurately and on time 

HR technology has the potential to streamline payroll processes for independent contractors. It can make sure they are paid for their services accurately and on time. HR departments can use automated payroll systems to process payments based on project milestones or hourly rates.

Size of the gig economy 

As of 2024, 36% of all US workers work in the gig economy through their main or secondary jobs, corresponding to around 57 million people. In 2005, just a tenth of all employees worked in the gig economy, compared to just under 16% in 2015. Over half of US employees are likely to be part of the gig economy by 2027, and Indian gig workers are seeing their incomes rise rapidly.

Globally, the gross volume generated by the gig economy is $204 billion. 82% of freelancers say working independently makes them happier, and 76% report being very satisfied with their choice.