Plugging the holes in India’s ‘Independent Contractor’ setup

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The recent terror attack in Manhattan, US is another incident that highlights the sharing economy’s rising crisis. In Manhattan, the suspect was an Uber driver who had passed the company’s background checks despite having several infractions on his record. Why go that far, let’s look at our home front! The most recent incident in Hyderabad was where a driver was accused of impropriety and allegedly driving under an alias.

We have to give it to most app-based services, that they have outsourced their candidate screening process. At least they’re doing it! But is that enough? The problem is that the emphasis is still on a quantitative churn out of service providers rather than a qualitative investigation into their history. Getting a stamped paper in the contractors file is more important for HR, than actually vetting whether there are any loopholes in the candidates claimed history. In countries like ours, in the absence of a national database of criminal records, it becomes even more imperative for us to get thorough and comprehensive checks done.

Another friction at work in this setup is that these pools of independent contractors aren’t the employers, employee pool/workers. It’s this relationship, that excludes PF, ESIC, Gratuity, Hospitalization expense, etc., that makes this pool a cheap source of workforce. This independent contractor model is not restricted to the shared economy alone. This labor structure can be found across industries such as textile manufacturing, sales and brokerage. However, the employers aren’t liable free to the actions and consequences of this pool of workers. Here, is the scary part, in terms of vetting them, there isn’t much of an imperative for these corporations to scrutinize an operator’s past. Little do they realize, till things are going smooth, it’s definitely a cost saver for them! The day something goes wrong, which in most cases does happen, that day they’re in a soup. Rather, in quicksand! It’s the lack of accountability that is scary and leads to transgressions by this worker pool.

Now coming to those institutions, which follow the norms and get their contractors vetted! Should we applaud them! No! They just do the bare minimum, which is police verification. This alone is not sufficient. We need to employ more comprehensive checks, which encompass varied aspects. Some of the checks that we recommend to you are:-

• Criminal verification
• Drug Screening
• Employment Verification
• Education Verification
• Reference check
• License Verification

As an imperative practice, we at JantaKhoj suggest all those companies/institutions that employ contractors to conduct comprehensive background checks. This should be made an SOP and implemented consistently for employees, candidates for employment, independent contractors, consultants and other contingent workers. This will help you protect your customers’ safety and maintain your company’s reputation.

Like the age old adage goes – better be safe than sorry!

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