Canada moves to provide better labour protections for gig workers

The Canadian government is taking steps to update the Canada Labour Code to offer greater protections for gig workers.

The move comes as Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr. shared details of a two-year consultation on the experiences of gig workers in federally regulated sectors, including those working on digital platforms.

This report, titled What we heard: Developing greater labour protections for gig workers, compiles feedback from various stakeholders and highlights the challenges faced by workers within the gig economy, as well as improvements that could be implemented to grant them better access to labour protections.

Featuring submissions from gig work experts, academics, Indigenous organizations, unions, labour groups, and employer organizations, the report also discussed the importance of ensuring better transparency and fairness in the gig economy, improving information quality for better policymaking.

Gig work is becoming increasingly popular in Canada, the report stated, with an estimated 41,000 gig workers currently in federally regulated industries. These include self-employed truck drivers, couriers, network technicians, freelancers, artists, and cultural workers.

Discussions around the protection gaps in gig work have become more common as the COVID-19 pandemic brought more Canadians out of traditional job roles.

In 2021, AIG Canada partnered with insurtech Goose Insurance to offer affordable income protection insurance specifically for gig workers and self-employed individuals, recognizing the protection gaps affecting a growing segment of the Canadian workforce.

 “The growth of the gig economy in Canada has generated a need for insurance solutions that fill gaps in coverage provided to this community of workers,” said Shawn Austin, who was AIG’s US and Canada head of accident & health at the time. “The pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure all workers have access to coverage that will protect them if they are injured and cannot work, or if they need to forgo work to take care of family members.”

The government’s plans

A press release from Employment and Social Development Canada said the government is working to better protect federally regulated workers by strengthening employee misclassification provisions in response to one of the challenges identified by gig workers.

Gig workers are often misclassified as independent contractors, even though they share similar characteristics to employees, according to consultation feedback. This leaves them out of receiving key protections such as labour standards coverage.

The government has also consulted the public on how to build a modern employment insurance program that better meets the needs of workers and employers, which included coverage for self-employed and gig workers in the first two phases of the consultations.

“The nature of work is changing, so Canada’s Labour Code has to change too,” O’Regan said. “Gig workers are workers. They deserve protection.”