Research has long suggested that platform work could help people meet their financial needs in a crisis. COVID-19 put this research to the ultimate test, and this economic shock provided an opportunity to better understand the role that platform work can play in supporting financial resilience.

Today, Accenture released new research on the impact of platform work in labour markets. The research shows that platform work was a financial safety net during COVID-19 in Canada, and 75% of rideshare and delivery workers in Canada considered income from platform work as essential or important during the pandemic. And many workers who lost their jobs and weren’t eligible for government support turned to platform work to stay afloat. The data patterns show that delivery sign-ups followed the unemployment rate, giving people alternative opportunities to access work. There was a 72% correlation between delivery work sign-ups and the unemployment rate in Canada.

The research makes it clear that it’s never been more important to protect the flexibility of platform work, while providing additional benefits and protections to workers. Today, we’re sharing a proposed blueprint for what a Flexible Benefits Fund could look like for app-based workers in Canada. 

We built this blueprint based on a few principles: 

  1. App-based workers are not a homogenous group, and it’s important for workers to be able to self-direct their benefits, based on their needs. 94% of workers supported a flexible benefits spending account, because it allows them to direct benefits funds to what they need the most. 
  2. App-based workers who spend more time working on-app and receive higher total retained earnings should be eligible for  additional benefits. 
  3. Many app-based workers use multiple platforms at the same time. Instead of creating individual benefits funds for each company, the entire industry should be required to aggregate time and benefits across the industry to make it as simple and intuitive as possible for app-based workers. 

Here’s our blueprint for a Flexible Benefits Fund—an industry approach for benefits for app-based workers in Canada:

  • The Flexible Benefits Fund would be enabled by provincial governments and managed by industry for delivery and rideshare app-based platforms. All platform companies would provide data on worker hours and earnings. The organization would then tell each platform that they need to provide a certain amount to cover their share of the worker’s total benefits.
  • App-based delivery (DNC) and rideshare (TNC) workers qualify for the benefits fund based on completing a specified amount of engaged hours* per quarter, aggregated across all companies.
  • Once a worker’s aggregate hours surpass a given threshold, all retained earnings** in that quarter will be multiplied by the benefit rate at that level, and the resulting benefit amount will be put into an account.
  • Each app-based platform with which the worker worked during that quarter will pay its share of that benefit amount, based on its share of that worker’s earnings during the quarter.
  • Workers can use the funds for a range of purposes including health and dental benefits, life insurance, RRSP contributions, and educational expenditures.

This blueprint builds upon our Flexible Work+ proposal that we introduced earlier this year. Along with our commitment to lifelong learning, we remain focused on raising the bar for platform work in Canada.

*Engaged time includes time when the worker has accepted a trip and is on route to pick up the passenger or food item, and is completing the trip itself.
**The total earnings a worker receives through the app-based platform, which is gross earnings plus any tips)