Hiring Independent Contractors vs. Using an Employer of Record: Weighing the Disadvantages

Atlas Team Profile Photo

Atlas Team

Atlas helps innovative companies like yours to expand, onboard, manage and pay international teams in 160+ countries.

Published: 11 Aug 2023

In today's evolving global marketplace, businesses consider new models to build and manage their workforce. Among the popular choices are hiring independent contractors (ICs) or leveraging the services of an Employer of Record (EOR). However, each option comes with its unique set of challenges. In this blog post, we explore the potential disadvantages of hiring ICs compared to using an EOR. 

Hiring Independent Contractors: A Double-Edged Sword 

Hiring ICs can offer businesses flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Yet, the approach is not without its pitfalls, particularly regarding misclassification risks and legal complications. 

Misclassification Risks 

The most substantial risk of hiring ICs revolves around the potential for misclassification. In many jurisdictions, the line between an employee and an IC is blurry, and the penalties for misclassification can be severe, including fines, back taxes, and legal disputes. 

Legal and Compliance Challenges 

Businesses hiring ICs need to stay abreast of the labor laws in each jurisdiction where the ICs work. This necessity can be particularly challenging when dealing with a global workforce, given the differences in labor laws across countries. 

The High Cost of Misclassifying Independent Contractors 

Despite the advantages of using contractors, improper classification can result in severe financial and legal penalties and reputational damage. Here are some cases that illustrate the potential consequences:

  • Uber - In 2020, the ride-hailing giant faced a significant setback in the UK when it lost a legal battle about the status of its drivers. The Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers should be classified as workers, not independent contractors, entitled to benefits such as minimum wage and paid holidays (source). 

  • FedEx - In a 2014 case, FedEx Ground was ordered to pay $228 million to resolve claims by 2,300 drivers in California who said they were misclassified as independent contractors, leading to unpaid wages and benefits (source). 

  • Google - The tech giant settled a case for $3.8 million in 2020 in which contract workers alleged they were denied access to benefits and subjected to lesser treatment compared to regular employees (source). 

  • Instacart - The grocery delivery platform faced a lawsuit in 2020 alleging misclassification of its "shoppers" as independent contractors, leading to violation of labor laws and denial of unemployment insurance benefits (source). 

  • Amazon - In 2021, the retail giant faced a lawsuit from delivery drivers alleging that they were misclassified as independent contractors, which led to unpaid overtime and break violations (source). 

These cases are examples of the high stakes involved in properly classifying your independent contractors. The complexities of local labor laws and the international nature of many businesses make the issue even more challenging. 

Employer of Record: A Viable Solution 

On the other hand, an EOR offers a more streamlined solution to managing a global workforce. EORs are third-party organizations that legally employ workers on behalf of the client company. They handle all the administrative tasks, including compliance, payroll, benefits, and taxes, alleviating these burdens from the client. 

Independent Contractors

Employer of Record


Risk of misclassification and legal disputes.

Handles compliance with local labor laws.


Employer responsible for contracts, invoicing, and payment.

All administrative tasks handled by the EOR.

Tax Responsibilities

Potential issues with tax withholding and reporting.

EOR handles all tax obligations.

Legal Risks

Potential liability for work-related incidents.

EOR bears the legal risks.

Scale & Expansion

Challenges in scaling and expanding into new markets.

EOR facilitates easy scaling and global expansion.

 While hiring ICs can seem like an attractive option due to perceived flexibility and cost savings, the risks and administrative burdens can outweigh these benefits. Using an EOR like Atlas, businesses can navigate the complexities of global labor laws, ensure proper employee classification, and focus on their core operations. 

If you'd like to delve deeper into the intricacies of global employee classification, we invite you to download our white paper, "Are Your Independent Contractors Independent?" It provides valuable insights into global labor laws, employee classification, and strategies to ensure compliance. 

Navigate the complexities of global labor laws with ease. Download our white paper now and unlock the full potential of your global workforce.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not replace legal advice. For more detailed information or assistance, consult with a legal expert or an EOR like Atlas.