As the emergence of the gig economy continues to change the face of the traditional Canadian workplace, employment laws and public policy are struggling to catch up, according to a new report by Deloitte Canada and the Human Resources Professionals Association.

In fact, most contingent workers — a term the report uses to describe contract workers, freelancers, consultants, crowdsourced employees or other off-the-book workers — aren’t currently eligible for traditional employer benefits plans, pensions and personal time off.

Read: The intricacies of providing benefits in the gig economy

“We need to get down to the urgent work of assessing not just how work will change in Canada but how Canadian workers should prepare,” said Scott Allinson, vice-president of public affairs at the Human Resources Professionals Association. “The changes we are seeing are nothing less than historic and governments and educators need to take a skills-first, not a job-first, approach.”

Read: Employers opening up to non-traditional employment: study

The report makes a number of recommendations for employers and governments, including the call for modernized provincial labour laws to reflect the realities of the gig economy. It noted the changes could include significant reforms around retirement planning, income taxes, employment insurance, training programs and the 40-hour workweek.

Also, due to the prospect of job losses as a result of automation, policy-makers will have to revive the idea of a universal basic income, according to the report. It suggested a more robust discussion around that option, addressing questions such as: Who would be eligible? How would employment income affect the government benefits? And how would the government pay for it?

Read: Ontario to move ahead with basic income pilot

“It is critical that as a nation, as a business community, we understand the future of work and take action,” said Stephen Harrington, national lead for talent strategy at Deloitte Canada and a co-author of the report. “Our recommendations are meant as a starting point — we need social innovation and real made-in-Canada solutions in order to lead and win in the future.”

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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