Does the Gig Economy Really Work for Military Spouses?

This is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the views of MilSpouseFest.

Weeks ago–well, maybe it was months now–I wrote an open letter to the spouse employment community. I asked them to remember military families and spouses impacted by disability in their conversations and advocacy for better employment prospects.

All over my social media, I see groups dedicated to military spouses helping them find work gigs. It’s great, too. We are supporting each other, passing along work opportunities, and sharing information. Freelance work, or the gig economy, is perfect for military spouses.

But does the gig economy really work for military spouses?

As defined by, “A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.”

Flexible work; it sounds like a great idea, right? I have even advocated for flexible work because it meets the needs of my family and our disabilities. These are additional benefits:

  • A better work/life balance
  • Choice of who to work for and for how long
  • Set rates for your work
  • Work that moves with us when we PCS

I love all of it. ALL. OF. IT. I take my son to various therapies during the work week, and I, too, have my own health issues which means multiple appointments for me. I haven’t even written about school advocacy, but that also takes time.

My husband deploys frequently, so having work/life balance means more stability in my home. And as we all know, life with the military means we need to be flexible. The gig economy seems perfect for military spouses, especially spouses and families registered on EFMP.

However, let’s look a little bit beneath the surface, and see what the drawbacks are. Here are some of the immediate ones:

  • No benefits. You will have no benefits as an employee. No, sick leave, no paid time off, no worker’s compensation. Nothing.
  • Human resource offices cannot protect you at all. No discrimination protection. No sexual harassment protection. You have no workplace protections.
  • Payment can be piecemeal. As a 1099 employee, you are at the mercy of the employer to pay you in a timely manner. As a W-2 employee, you have a steady paycheck you can count on.
  • Work will most likely be short-term.

The gig economy works well for employers. They save money on benefits, don’t need as much office space, and don’t have to train new employees that might not stay with their company for long.

I know some people reading this will get upset and say things like, “I’m a 1099 employee, and I love it.” I think that’s great. Guess what? I’m also a 1099 employee. I’m a freelance writer which means I’m in the same situation.

But, does the gig economy work for milspouses? In the short-term, the gig economy works. It’s good for EFMP families and for many spouses because of the flexibility alone.

My fear is the long-term. I want more. I want a career that uses my skill set as a writer and advocate. I want benefits because I’m worth it. I want workplace protections because I do have a disability, and according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am a valuable member of society deserving of quality work with quality benefits.

I had conversations about careers and benefits at a recent spouse employment event. Every military spouse I spoke with agreed that we want careers–not stop-gap measures–and all that is accompanied with having a career. I absolutely believe that as military families, we deserve the same career opportunities as everyone else.

By Susan Reynolds

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One Reply to “Does the Gig Economy Really Work for Military Spouses?”

  1. Thank you for this article. It is interesting to review different perspectives, but I have found that it is possible to work remotely as employee versus contractor. After working remotely for 4 years, I have found a position that is salary, with benefits, and work life balance. There are actually quite a few well known companies that offer flexibile employment. It would be nice to have gigs that can offer health packages, but just like part time employees it is difficult to find insurance carriers to support the idea for companies. I say that if a spouse is debating on working independently weigh out which things are most important and then decide.

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