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Promoting gig economy won’t help low-income workers: report

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Forcing companies to consider freelance workers as employees could reduce these workers’ incomes and deprive many from reaching the first rung on the jobs ladder, according to a Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) report.

“The goal of a California law that took effect last September was to improve conditions for gig workers. In practice, it has led to mass layoffs of freelance workers in the media and the film industry,” says Peter St. Onge, senior economist at the MEI and author of the publication. “Despite good intentions, forcing employers to provide benefits to contract workers risks making matters a lot worse.”

California Bill 5 took effect on Jan. 1 and it effectively turned freelancers into employees, says St. Onge.

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Insurance platform Collective Benefits raises £3.3M to give gig economy workers a safety net – TechCrunch

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The famous phrase “software eats the world” was originally coined to describe how technology gradually replaces the old industrial norms of production. But few realized that when Uber started to “eat” the taxi industry it would also be among the first harbingers of a new wave of what it meant to be “employed.” As similar gig economy platforms start to eat the old relationship between employer and employee — where some semblance of duty of care had developed — the gig platforms have yet to develop much caring for the gig worker. And as these platforms gain power, do they really want this to look like the re-emergence of serfdom? Gig work is coming to an industry near you, whether we like it or not.

Ideally, we need a new model that can deal with income minimums, benefits, insurance, pensions, etc., which responds to the dynamic way the world of work is evolving.

Collective Benefits is a startup aimed at tackling this growing “protection gap” created by the gig economy where so-called “self-employed” workers must often go without basic benefits such as family leave and sick pay, not to mention mental health support and critical injury pay.

The startup has today announced the closing of £3.3 million seed round led by U.K.-based Stride.VC, alongside existing investors Delin Ventures, Insurtech Gateway and several angels from executives at Uber, Deliveroo and Urban.

Collective Benefits has set out to build a tech platform that gives gig workers access to a full range of affordable, portable protections and benefits which they can carry around with them between the platforms they work on.

So instead of your benefits being tied to one employer, as is the current case, they can apply to any gig economy “employer” someone works for.

It’s also working with a number of on-demand service platforms who are giving their workforces access to these benefits. The startup will use the funding to further its growth and offering for gig platforms. A consumer service aimed at freelancers will follow later this year.

Anthony Beilin, CEO and co-founder of Collective Benefits, said in a statement: “There are six million self-employed workers in the UK, which includes both higher-paid freelancers and gig economy platform workers. Yet, neither group typically has a safety net — no holiday pay, no family leave, no mental health support, not even paid sick days. We are building Collective Benefits so that the gig economy workers are covered by the same protections typically reserved for full-time employees.”

The company provides a benefits platform for both gig economy platforms and self-employed freelancers (such as sick pay, family leave, and mental health support), but the platform is also designed to boost loyalty to the gig platforms amongst the workers, as well as reduce churn and talent acquisition costs.

Fred Destin, partner at Stride.VC, said: “We’re seeing services platforms gain unstoppable momentum in every segment of our lives, from rides to food delivery to freelancing. We need a new playbook. Collective Benefits addresses one of the core challenges in this brave new world of work, using technology to design and deliver a new type of safety net to all the participants in this fast-growing part of our economy.”

Robert Lumley, Director and Co-founder of Insurtech Gateway, said: “The insurance industry faces a massive challenge in keeping up with the extraordinary growth in self-employment. Collective Benefits has created entirely new insurance products for the self-employed not addressed by traditional insurers and accessible through a flexible tech platform that allows them to get the cover they need.”

The fact this startup has appeared just goes to show the market failure today due to the on-rush of new technology sprinting ahead of regulation. Some 96% of UK self-employed have no income protection, while 93% of UK self-employed have no health or critical illness coverage. PWC estimates that self-employed will account for 20% of labour force by 2025.

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How the industry is meeting the needs of the gig economy – COVER

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Montreal gig workers have to hustle, despite lack of labour protections

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A few years ago, Shanti Gonzales started waking up in the morning with no voice.

At the time, she was working a gig where she would sing to rooms of rambunctious children at libraries and schools, and it took a toll.

No amount of honey and tea and lozenges helped. She often would wind up hoarse by the end of her shift, meaning she had to stop working — at that job, and at her other gigs.

“I didn’t have anything to lean back on. I didn’t have paid time off. I didn’t have health insurance, I didn’t have any benefits. I didn’t even have someone to cover for me,” she said.

“Without these protections, you feel trapped.”

Like many her age, Gonzales, 24, is working in what’s called the gig economy. Though the term may bring to mind jobs that involve some kind of online platform (such as Fiverr or Foodora), it also includes those who work independent contracts for short, fixed periods of time.

The rise of the gig economy has led to a problem: workers who are juggling several different contracts don’t always have the protections, such as a human resources department, or a union, that salaried workers do.

Gonzales graduated from McGill with a BA in English three years ago, and since then, she’s never had a full-time job. She has worked as a musician, nanny, arts educator, administrator, copywriter and playwright.

In some of those jobs, she has faced discrimination based on her gender, her race, and her age, she said. But she never had many avenues of recourse.

A ‘rolling back’ of labour protections?

According to John Paul Ferguson, a professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, the gig economy has less to do with the type of work people are doing and more to do with the relationship between the employer and the employee.

Along with his colleague Matthew Corritore, Ferguson is surveying gig economy workers in Montreal to better understand their realities.

Ferguson says while there are some good things about the gig economy — like how online platforms can make it easier for people to contract for work — he has concerns about the effect of the gig economy on workers’ rights.

In the past, policies were put in place restricting casual labour because of concerns about exploitation, underpayment and unfairness, he said.

“The worry that those of us who have studied employment for many years have is: how much of this is just a rolling back of some of these protections that we put on our employees in the past?”

The province’s major labour laws do not apply to people who are self-employed. However, Catherine Poulin, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Labour, said some self-employed workers in the gig economy may actually have an employer-employee relationship with their employer, and therefore are protected.

Gonzales, for example, is considered an employee at some jobs, but considered self-employed at others.

Those who face discrimination are also entitled to the protections under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and can file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights commission, Poulin said in a statement.

Relying on a community

Gonzales says one of the most important aspects of the gig economy is knowing which gigs are good and which are not.

She relies on a community of people who meet up in person or chat over the phone to give each other advice about jobs and employers to avoid.

This tight-knit web of people also share opportunities with each other and recommend each other for jobs that may come up.

Gonzales said being a part of the gig economy can be isolating and leave people vulnerable because they don’t have co-workers.

“I think that’s why these little micro communities form. It’s the people: we’re ‘in it’ for each other. We’re in it to make sure that we can achieve each others’ goals, together. The community aspect is the thing I am fiercely protective of and fiercely invested in.”

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