Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner. The economy is growing steadily and the global financial crisis now well and truly behind us. The Australian economy has performed exceptionally well with business in many sectors producing record profits.
Many companies are once again in the financial position to take on those long overdue projects. A natural consequence is that the demand for freelancers is increasing rapidly.
In this newsletter we report on the new paid parental leave scheme and how this may affect those working as independent contractors or in their own micro business. We also take a quick look at the new Google Voice product, and discuss the legal difference between a contract 'for' service verses a contract 'of' service and how this may affect you.
I hope you will find the contents of interest and benefit. As always wishing you every success!
The steady increase in employment levels has seen the unemployment rate reduced from 5.8% in July 2009 to fewer than 5.1% for September 2010 with 31,000 jobs taken with close to 350,000 jobs created this year. This consolidation in employment levels has been strongly supported by the steady uptake of independent contractors (freelancers). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (Pub 2010, forms of employment 6359) 18.5% of the Australian workforce is self employed representing some 1.97M workers. Of these 1M are regarded as freelancers with the remainder being small business operators who employ other staff. This is a remarkable figure and a testimony to strong contribution freelancers have made to Australia being one of the strongest economies in the OECD. It is also interesting to note that Germany, who was severely affected by the GFC, now has the lowest unemployment rate since 1992.
The 1st of September saw the release of the new Freelance-Market website which involved the complete technical upgrade of the underlying delivery technology. For the last year the IT project team, under the direction of Roman Arnold, undertook a radical redevelopment using Joomla 1.5 as the content management system. Combined with Zend Framework, the upgrade has not only improved look and feel but also usability. Client searches can now be far more targeted with complex results now delivered in less than a second from our server.
Telework is now becoming a far more popular work mode accounting for nearly 50% of projects initiated by Freelance-Market. It is not surprising therefore that Skype, the Internet telephone service, has developed into a very effective business tool for freelancers. Not only does it offer free or very low cost communications, it also allows you to see the person you're talking to.
It is therefore interesting to note the recent development where Google has decided to directly compete with Skype by offering a similar global service. This service, call Google-Voice, is currently available for all Gmail users in the U.S with release planned internationally, including Australia. When available, simply register as a gmail user and you will be able to install Google Voice software.
As with Skype, you can speak to users directly computer to computer as well as any fixed and mobile phones worldwide free of charge. The prices for this vary greatly from country to country, but appear to be modelled on Skype's rates.
After 1st January 2011, Freelancers will be eligible to receive paid parental leave at the minimum national wage currently set at $544 gross per week. Parents are only entitled to paid leave after the birth or adoption of the child, not before, and may be taken any time thereafter so long as the entire 18 weeks are taken within the first 12 months of the date of birth.
To be eligible, a parent will need to meet the Paid Parental Leave work test, the income test and the residency requirements. Typically this means that the parent has worked for at least 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of the child, worked a minimum of 330 hours during that period and there was not a break of more than 8 weeks between work periods. Only parents with an adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less will be eligible. Australian citizens, permanent residents, New Zealand citizens who entered on a NZ passport and some specified temporary visa holders are all eligible to claim Paid Parental leave. Partners are also eligible to use any unused portion if the primary carer has chosen return to work.
The ATO has issued a Taxation Ruling (TR1999/13) which makes the following distinctions between the forms of contractual relationships:
'The relationship between an employer and an employee is a contractual one. It is often referred to as a contract of service (or in the past, as a master/servant relationship). Such a relationship is typically contrasted with the independent contractor/principal relationship that, at law, is referred to as a contract for services. An independent contractor typically contracts to achieve a result whereas an employee contracts to provide his or her labour (typically to enable the employer to achieve a result)…'
'A user of labour or service requirer may contract with a labour hire firm for the provision of labour of a specified kind. The labour hire firm does not contract to perform the work; it merely contracts to provide labour to work under the direction of the user.
The labour hire firm then ascertains the availability of suitable workers on its books. Contacted workers may accept or reject the work offer. On acceptance, a contract is formed between the labour hire firm and each worker.'
If in doubt, have an expert check the arrangement as well as the wording of your agreements to ensure your business is not unwittingly falling into the 'sham' contract trap.
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