Give gig workers more rights, transparency, benefits, Ontario committee recommends

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Photo: Courtesy of the Workers Action Centre (CNW Group/Canadian Union of Postal Workers)

The CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario should develop a worker benefits plan that is not tied to employers, set up a job board for gig work, and force greater transparency in gig work contracts, a new report on the province’s changing work landscape recommends.

The report from the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee also recommended creating a “dependent contractor” category for app-based gig workers with guaranteed employment rights including severance pay and minimum wage.

“The recommendations are about designing a policy regime that takes into account how changes in technology and COVID, which coincide, are changing the workplace,” said committee chair Rohinton Medhora.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said he was impressed with the recommendations and would consider all of them.

Of particular interest, he said, was the recommendation that the government look into developing a portable benefits plan that’s tied directly to workers, not their employers.

“This is one that’s a priority for me and I really want to move forward with looking at this seriously,” McNaughton said in an interview Wednesday.

The report said a portable plan might see the benefits administered through “an independent body, through government, the private sector or some combination,” and would support worker mobility, give certainty to their futures and potentially help businesses attract more workers.

McNaughton said he’s “excited” by the concept, which he said could cover gig workers and others in restaurant and retail jobs who don’t have health, vision or dental benefits.

The minister did not explicitly commit on Wednesday to other specific gig work reforms that constituted several of the report’s recommendations.

Among its 21 recommendations, the committee suggested piloting a virtual platform “that matches supply and demand for various types of gig and contract work,” which could start with some occupation types and expand to cover more if found to be effective.

It said gig platform companies that operate in Ontario should be required to provide basic, clear and transparent contracts with information on payment, penalties, suspensions or pay deductions, noting that workers had raised issues with densely worded and frequently updated contracts.

It also addressed the lack of basic employment protections for app-based workers, and recommended creating a “dependent contractor” worker category through the Employment Standards Act “or elsewhere.” The recommendation said those workers should have basic employment rights like termination pay, minimum wages, benefits, pay stubs, regular wage payment and notice of termination with severance pay entitlements.

Another recommendation proposed a committee of cabinet ministers who deal with workforce-related issues, and others recommended creating more opportunities for learning on the job.

The report also said contracting companies should be forced to state they are complying with employment standards, specifically on worker classification, so there is no ambiguity over liability.

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