A new report by the Ontario government’s advisory committee on the future of work is recommending the introduction of a new portable benefits program.
The Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee, which delivered its interim report this summer, set out 21 recommendations, including supporting workers who fall outside the purview of traditional benefits programs. 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.
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“Portable benefits could help businesses attract workers and make their futures less uncertain,” said the report, noting the program could also increase benefits levels and access in areas such as pharmacare, life insurance, vision care and mental-health services. “One option might see portable benefits reside with the worker and be administered by an independent body, through government, the private sector or some combination.”
Details of the report were shared Thursday by Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills development. “The future of work is already here,” he said in a press release. “If we want to be leaders, we need to quickly adapt. We’re not going back to where we were before the pandemic. Taking these steps now rebalances the scales and puts Ontario workers and their families first for generations to come.”
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The report also included several recommendations related to gig workers, including that the provincial government should create and recognize the dependent contractor category for gig or platform workers in the app-based space and provide this category of workers with basic employment rights.
While it noted an employee and an independent contractor are defined and recognized in the Employment Standards Act, a third category of worker merits attention. “This is the dependent contractor and it falls between an employee and an independent contractor, where most app-based workers fall. . . . Under a proposed third category, some workers for platform-based apps would be considered dependent contractors while retaining some of the flexibility — such as time allocation across multiple employers and work hours — this type of work provides.”
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The government is considering all of the report’s recommendations and plans to take further action, including steps to protect and support gig workers, noted the release.