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Tech entrepreneurs and “disruptors” have, over the last few years, convinced many potential employees that it is in fact better to be a contractor. You make your own schedule! You’re your own boss! However, the “gig economy,” freeing as it may be, also means companies can shirk blame if something goes wrong, and that they have no obligation to provide benefits like health care.
Care.com is trying to change that, but what they’re offering seems like a drop in the bucket. According to the New York Times, the company, which connects users with babysitting and housekeeping services, will provide up to $500 a year for caregivers to use toward their health care, transportation, and education needs.
In New York City, which, granted, is at the high end of places to live, a monthly MetroCard costs you $116.50, and health care on the exchange can run you $400-500 a month—and that's if you're single. In other words, the $500 wouldn't even get you through 30 days in the city.
Care.com says it came up with the amount by calculating what the average employee pays for pharmacy benefits for six months. The company will set aside two percentage points of the 12 percent transaction fee it charges to make up the $500 per contractor.
“Caregivers frequently work for multiple families and almost always work without access to professional benefits. The Care.com benefits platform not only provides that access, but now makes these benefits more affordable through the help of employer contributions to the program,” said Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder, chairwoman, and CEO of Care.com, in a press release to the Daily Dot. “Pooled, portable, peer-to-peer benefits represent a new model for household employment and an innovative step forward in professionalizing caregivers.”
Care.com also has a program to “provide an array of medical and dental plans to all caregivers in the Care.com marketplace in the U.S.”
Care.com is certainly doing more than most gig economy companies to provide for its contractors, but their offerings also highlight an ongoing issue with the changing landscape of the workforce. As contract work becomes the norm, so does companies choosing whether or not (usually not) to provide benefits, rather than being required to by law. Care.com doesn’t have to provide this care to their contractors, and it’s nice that they are. But you can’t rely on every money-making entity to be nice.