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Mastercard teams with Stride to bring portable benefits to gig-economy workers

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MoCaFi and Jobble among the first Mastercard partners to provide their cardholders access to affordable, comprehensive benefits

The rise of the gig and independent economy has led to a need for accessible benefits options, as well as the flexibility to move benefits across jobs. Addressing this demand, Mastercard today announced a new strategic partnership with Stride, the leading portable benefits platform for independent workers, to provide customers with the ability to offer cardholders in the United States access to simple, affordable coverage plans. This marks the first time that differentiated health, dental, and vision benefits will be made available via a payments network.

Among the first of Mastercard’s customers to use Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform are African American-owned fintech Mobility Capital Finance (MoCaFi) and Jobble, a community of over 2 million on-demand workers spanning the delivery, warehouse, grocery and restaurant fields, among others. MoCaFi and Jobble cardholders, as well as other Mastercard participating partners, will have access to Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform, which provides:

A fully stocked benefits marketplace: Access to affordable, quality health insurance, low-cost dental and vision insurance, discounted telemedicine and prescriptions, income and expense management tools, and tax withholding estimation and guidance, in addition to local deals and discounts.
A customizable, configurable platform: The ability to tailor benefits programs for specific users by adding their own unique perks and benefits, presenting their own tools and services, and offering different benefits packages based on loyalty, engagement, productivity, and other criteria.
Year-round concierge access: Continuous access to Stride’s award-winning member experience team, who can help with everything from benefit selection and enrollment to questions about invoices and payments.

Additionally, beginning in 2021, enabled Mastercard cardholders will be able to use their cards on Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform, making it easier and more rewarding for their users to pay for their benefits.

This partnership is an extension of Mastercard’s commitment to financial inclusion, and the first step in the company’s broader strategy to provide gig and independent workers with a wide range of benefits choices – from insurance, to financial management, education and offers. The portable benefits initiative aims to enable Mastercard partners to deliver relevant benefits to members of the gig and independent economy, ensuring that both have a safety net to prepare them for the future, wherever it is that they may choose to work.

“The role of the gig and independent worker is increasingly relevant to our economy, as more and more people rely on digital tools and platforms to fulfill requests and facilitate tasks,” said Jess Turner, executive vice president of Products and Innovation, North America at Mastercard. “Understanding evolving preferences from this segment for access to cost-effective coverage, and an overarching desire for a comprehensive set of personalized financial products and solutions, we’re excited to make Stride’s Portable Benefits Platform available to our partners via their cardholder offerings.”

“Independent workers deserve the same access to affordable, comprehensive benefits as full-time workers,” said Noah Lang, co-founder and CEO of Stride. “For the past several years we’ve been building the world’s first ‘Portable Benefits Platform’ designed to help all independent workers secure, manage and use the benefits they and their families need to thrive. Through this partnership, we’re putting that powerful platform in the hands of Mastercard’s partners so they can provide their users with access to those benefits.”

Supporting the Upcoming Open Enrollment Period

The annual Open Enrollment Period in the United States, which begins November 1, 2020 and ends December 15, 2020, is the yearly period during which individuals can enroll in a health insurance plan for the following year. Both MoCaFi and Jobble will be using the Stride Benefits Platform to help their customer bases find affordable, quality health insurance. Most individuals using Stride to find health insurance can enroll in plans costing less than $75 per month, and 1 in 4 can find health insurance for less than $10 per month.

“Black Americans represent 17% of the gig economy workforce[1] and as such are often underbanked and have less access to employer-sponsored benefits,” said Wole Coaxum, CEO of MoCaFi. “This partnership with Mastercard and Stride allows us to bridge the economic mobility gap for Black Americans and advance their ability to affordably save, invest and insure themselves against risk.”

“We want to help gig workers end-to-end: from finding the perfect gigs to getting the perfect set of benefits. Partnering with Mastercard and Stride helps us deliver a complete package to our Jobblers,” said Zack Smith, CEO and Founder of Jobble.

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Bye 9-to-5, hi mental health struggles: the effect of the gig economy

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The gig economy offers both freedom and uncertainty (Getty)

The way we work is changing and it’s not only because of the pandemic. There are a lot of options available to us these days. Too many, in fact. One such alternative is the gig economy

 Essentially, the gig economy means that workers are paid for ‘gigs’ which are short-term, temporary jobs, often referred to as freelance work, as opposed to permanent employment.

Gig economy workers could already be in full-time or part-time employment though, taking on gig work to top up their income and make ends meet. Or, they could be self-employed, filling their day-to-day lives with enough freelance hours to make a living. 

Long gone are the days of simply working nine-to-five.

For some, this fundamental shift in the way we work offers flexibility and freedom to carry out work job-to-job. For others, it brings insecurity, no promise of contractual work and lack of holiday and sick pay.

According to research by the University of Hertfordshire, between 2016 and 2019, the UK gig economy workforce doubled with one in 10 working adults using gig economy platforms in 2019.

But whether it’s moonlighting as a YouTuber or Amazon seller as a side hustle or working full-time juggling a variety of jobs like delivering food for Uber Eats or Deliveroo, how do we know the right time to turn off our ‘work mode’ and boot up our ‘life mode’?

And what is this precarious and ever-changing way of working doing to our mental health?

Research findings from a 2016 study commissioned by the charity, Help Musicians UK, looked into the potential links between the gig economy and mental health.

Looking at over 2,200 musicians working in the gig economy in the UK, 68.5% self-reported depression and 71% anxiety.

Some of the key issues which arose in the study pointed at worries about financial stability, job insecurity, and the requirement to have an online presence and network which exposed individuals to relentless opinion and criticism.

Whilst the phrase gig economy originated from the music industry, the rise of the internet and technological innovations has created a whole new world of opportunity for the way we work and seemingly endless opportunities to fill our home life with more and more work.

But is this tech-enabled gig economy causing burnout because we just don’t know when to stop? Or does it allow us to embrace freedom from traditional corporate roles?

Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, has been taking a look at the social, organizational, and policy implications of the shift towards the online gig economy.

Dr Alex Wood, who has been working on the study, says the gig economy can have both positive and negative consequences on our mental health.

‘We find that one of the things workers like most about this work is the sense of being their own boss as they don’t have to deal with a manager on a day-to-day basis.’ Alex tells Metro.co.uk.

Dr. Alex Wood has been studying the effects of the gig economy (Alex Wood)

‘This autonomy from traditional management is a real positive for many workers but that comes with the stress caused by the algorithmic control of their work by platforms; knowing that if they don’t work hard they’ll get a bad rating and lose your ability to make a living.’

‘This algorithmic control comes with its own risks for mental health as workers work hard for long hours without taking many breaks which can cause burnout.’

Michael Daly, associate professor in Psychology/Behavioural Science at Maynooth University, says the research he and his team have carried out on underemployment and psychological distress has shown a notable increase ‘when a discrepancy emerges between the amount of hours they would like to work and the hours offered by their employer.’

‘Workers also want job and income security, benefits such as health insurance, and opportunities for promotion and career development that tend to be underrepresented in gig economy jobs.’

But what do the people who actually exist in this new way of working think about it?

Phillip Smith, a freelance editor, is fully immersed in the gig economy and says finding the right work-life balance is tough. 

‘There was a period at the start where I was building contacts where you would be repeatedly hitting refresh on your emails begging for replies, that was tough.’

As a freelance editor, Phill Smith is immersed in the gig economy (Phill Smith)

Phill says carving out time for exercise has massively counterbalanced the negativity overworking has caused his mental health.

‘I’ve had a few crazy weeks where I’ve landed too much work and realised I had to pull back. I found that I have to rota in downtime during the week. I have a home studio so I can and have worked every hour of the day so forcing myself to go for a run or do yoga is essential.’

Working full time in the gig economy is one thing, buy what about having a ‘side hustle’ alongside a full-time job?

Amy Harris works as a full-time retail manager but launched her own craft store on Etsy during the Covid pandemic.

‘Having been on furlough for so long it was something that definitely worried me if I would be able to keep it up once back,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

Amy says the opportunity to work on something she’s passionate about brought positivity to her life.

‘It really helped me with my mental health when I wasn’t working and gave me a sense of purpose everyday. I’ve always regretted not pursuing what I studied at university and creating this little business has almost lifted a bit of that guilt and given me a creative outlet.’

Amy Harris said the gig economy allowed her to pursue something she’s passionate about (Amy Harris)

So, what is the future like for the gig economy?

Dr Wood says this way of working has seen and will continue to see growth through the pandemic and beyond.

‘I think the gig economy will emerge from the pandemic even bigger than before with local gig work boosted by the growth of food and retail delivery and remote gig economy boosted by companies looking for more remote workers who can be engaged and controlled without needing to bring them on to the companies’ premises.’

‘Companies are also going to be hesitant to invest in permanent employees in these uncertain times.’

What’s clear is that as the gig economy asserts itself in a post-Covid world, the mental health of workers involved shouldn’t fall by the kerbside as a result.



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MLB mental health crisis: Inside relief pitching gig economy

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Ryan Buchter, 34, has spent almost half his life pitching in professional baseball. In those 15 years, Buchter has been traded four times, released three times, changed organizations 10 times, pitched for teams in 22 cities and only once spent a full season in the majors without being demoted or released. What his itinerant playing record does not show is its cost: a drinking problem, depression and mental health issues that left him so wounded he is speaking out because he knows his story is too prevalent among ballplayers.



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New Labor Secretary Says Gig Economy Workers Should Be Classified As Employees | Fisher Phillips

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Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh didn’t beat around the bush when he provided his first public thoughts about the gig economy workforce since assuming office. In an interview with Reuters released on Thursday, Walsh said “in a lot of cases, gig workers should be classified as employees.” His comments should come as little surprise to those in the industry who have tracked his career and followed President Biden’s campaign promises to crack down on purported misclassification.

While he tried to strike a balanced tone – noting that in “some cases” gig workers are treated respectfully, and indicating that he didn’t “begrudge” any companies for raising revenue and making profits – his pointed comments send a direct signal to gig economy businesses that the Biden Department of Labor will soon ramp up efforts to force gig workers to be considered employees.

What Can We Expect?

Walsh said that he wants his agency to have conversations with gig economy companies in the coming months in an effort to ensure workers have access to the types of benefits that a typical employee might have: consistent wages, sick time, health care insurance, and similar benefits. While some business leaders have expressed hope that Walsh’s pragmatic streak demonstrated throughout his career as a union leader and mayor would carry over to the worker classification debate, it appears that he will push through an aggressive agenda on behalf of unions and workers.

First up? We can expect to soon see the DOL to formally rescind the Trump-era “gig economy rule” that was set to make it far easier to classify workers as independent contractors. In its place, the agency will no doubt release a new rule that will more closely align with the Biden administration’s aim to target misclassification and ensure as many workers as possible are considered employees. While litigation filed by business groups is ongoing in an attempt to revive the business-friendly version of the rule, gig economy companies cannot rely on this federal lawsuit to be a magic bullet to erase all concerns in this area.

Walsh also noted the success of the pandemic-related unemployment insurance program that ensured gig economy workers who were left without work could regain some of their lost income. “If the federal government didn’t cover the gig economy workers, those workers would not only have lost their job, but they wouldn’t have had any unemployment benefits to keep their family moving forward. We’d have a lot more difficult situation all across the country,” he said. But in expressing admiration for that legislation – which was paid for by massive stimulus spending bills approved by Congress – he didn’t expressly state how he would expect any future extension of UI benefits for gig workers to be funded or managed.

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