B.C. enhances protections for gig economy workers with new employment standards

Illustration: AI generated

British Columbia is poised to enhance the working conditions for gig economy workers in app-based ride-hailing and food delivery services, with the introduction of new protections and employment standards.

This move comes as a response to the rapid growth of the gig economy and aims to bring fairness and predictability to jobs that typically fall outside traditional employment relationships.

Labour Minister Harry Bains emphasized the need for fair treatment of workers who provide essential services at the touch of a button. He stated that the new standards, which were developed in response to concerns raised by the workers themselves, aim to balance the needs of workers with the continuity of these services.

Gig workers, while appreciating the flexibility of their jobs, have raised issues including low and unpredictable wages, sudden job terminations, and a lack of workers’ compensation in case of on-job injuries.

Janet Routledge, Parliamentary Secretary for Labour, highlighted that the new standards are reflective of the challenges voiced by gig workers across the province. She noted that these standards are particularly significant for newcomers to Canada who may rely on app-based work due to language barriers or other challenges.

The proposed changes, developed after extensive consultation with various stakeholders, require legislative amendments to be effective. These changes are set to address the vulnerabilities and concerns raised by gig workers, positioning B.C. as one of the first Canadian jurisdictions to tackle these issues.

Gig workers like Inder Raj Gill, a ride-hailing driver in Vancouver, and Vineet Singh, a food-delivery driver in Victoria, have expressed optimism about the proposed improvements.

They anticipate that these changes will lead to fairer pay, basic rights and benefits, and a sense of respect and support for their work.

Key facts about this sector in B.C. include the presence of approximately 11,000 ride-hailing drivers and 27,000 food-delivery workers, and the operation of 21 ride-hailing and seven food-delivery platforms.

The proposed standards cover various aspects including a minimum earnings standard, compensation for expenses, tip protections, pay transparency, destination transparency, fair procedures for suspensions and terminations, and workers’ compensation coverage.

The legislative approach intends to amend the Employment Standards Act and the Workers Compensation Act to redefine online platform workers as employees for specific purposes, ensuring that the new protections and standards apply to all workers in the industry.

However, some existing provisions of the Employment Standards Act will not apply at this stage, as the government continues to monitor areas like hours of work, overtime, paid leaves, and annual vacation.