The Future of Work: Alternative Work Arrangements in Colorado

Much has been written about the future of work, the changing economy, and the shift away from traditional employer-employee relationships, yet we know very little about what alternative work arrangements look like in Colorado specifically. Who works in “alternative” positions, what are these jobs, and why do people choose these nontraditional positions? What benefits do workers and employers receive from different types of work arrangements? What are the costs — to workers, employers, and the state?

This new report maps the landscape of alternative work arrangements in Colorado. The report’s findings highlight the prominence of the alternative workforce and the importance of protecting these workers in future policy. 

Key Takeaways About Alternative Work Arrangements

Ten percent of Colorado’s workers are independent contractors without basic workplace protections in their primary occupation. Those classified as independent contractors don’t have access to unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, minimum wage and overtime protections, or workplace discrimination and harassment protections. Alternative workers of all kinds also miss out on any workplace benefits offered to traditional employees.

Alternative workers aren’t evenly distributed across the workforce. In Colorado specifically, those working in alternative work arrangements are more likely to be white, female, and well-educated than the national population of alternative workers. 

Tens of thousands of Coloradans are misclassified as independent contractors each year, despite possibly meeting the requirements of regular employee status. By misclassifying employees, employers can save up to 30 percent on payroll expenses and respond more nimbly to market demands, but these benefits come at the expense of their workers, their competitors, and the state’s budget. 

Poor data significantly limits knowledge and examination of the alternative workforce. There is very little available data, particularly within Colorado, that measures independent contractors, gig workers, and other alternative workers. In the datasets that do exist, it’s difficult to differentiate between self-employed workers and true contract workers. In order to better understand this subset of the workforce, we need new and better data measuring who these workers are, what types of jobs they do, when, and how. 

Alternative work arrangements aren’t new, but they have newly important implications for the future of work. As we develop policy to guide the economy of the future, it’s important to understand how these policies impact more than one-fourth of Colorado’s workers who operate outside the traditional confines of an employer-employee relationship. Learn more by reading our new report now.