Ontario is eyeing a new system to provide “portable benefits” for workers in the gig economy, retail and hospitality sectors who don’t currently have health, dental or vision coverage.
Under the plan, workers would be able to keep their benefits even if they change jobs, said the province in a press release. If the plan goes through, it would make Ontario the first province in Canada to pursue such a comprehensive benefits program. In 2020, B.C.’s New Democratic Party won re-election on a platform that included extending pensions and benefits to precarious workers across the province; however, the plan has yet to come to fruition.
“Whether you’re bussing tables, working the cash or giving rides, we are making sure necessities like dental care and affordable medication is within reach for more families,” said Ontario’s Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, in the release.
To determine how to best run the proposed program, the government is planning to appoint an advisory panel of five members to research and make recommendations on an appropriate benefits system that could reside with workers who switch jobs more frequently.
The move comes on the heels of a report released in December 2021 by the Ontario government’s advisory committee in which it set out 21 recommendations, including the introduction of a new portable benefits program. Indeed, the report noted there’s an opportunity for Ontario to design and deliver a new type of portable benefits strategy tied to employees rather than employers.
Details on the funding and administration for the program are still to be determined, said McNaughton.