BC Government Announces Employment Standards Plans for Gig Workers
On November 20, 2023, the B.C. government tabled legislation that, if passed, will authorize the imposition of minimum employment standards for app-based gig workers. The legislation would amend the British Columbia Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) and Workers Compensation Act (“WCA”) so that “online platform workers”, identified in the government’s news release as app-based ride-hail and food-delivery workers, will be considered employees for the purposes of the ESA and workers for the purposes of the WCA, regardless of whether they are employees under other laws. To date, gig workers have typically been engaged as independent contractors.
The proposed legislation, Bill 48, leaves the specific standards described in the news release to be enacted in new regulations under the ESA. The government stated in the news release that alternate standards will be created to “protect the flexibility that [gig] workers value and address their top priorities”, but that standards related to hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays, paid leaves, and annual vacation, will not be established at this time.
The government states that 21 ride hailing companies and 7 food-delivery platforms, including Uber, Lyft, Instacart, SkipTheDishes, and others, are licensed to operate in BC, and estimates that there are about 11,000 ride-hailing drivers and 27,000 food-delivery workers in the province.
Key Contemplated Changes
As noted above, Bill 48 itself does not include any details relating to the employment standards to be established. However, the government’s news release describes its intentions, including the following key requirements.
Minimum Wage, Pay Statements, Expenses
The government intends to establish a minimum wage at 120% of the provincial minimum wage (currently $16.75), for engaged time (i.e., the time between when a worker accepts an assignment through to that assignment’s completion). Engaged time would not include time spent waiting between assignments. Platform companies will also be required to top up the difference when earnings in a given pay period fall below the minimum earnings standard for engaged time worked. Tips are not included in the minimum earnings calculation, and platform companies would be prohibited from withholding or making deductions from tips.
Platform companies will be required to disclose the earnings for completing an assignment when the assignment is offered to a worker, and provide workers with wage statements.
The government also plans to establish an additional compensation standard to recognize the costs that workers incur when using a personal vehicle for work.
Platform companies will be required to provide all pickup and delivery locations for each assignment to allow workers to assess the assignments before accepting them.
Suspension and Termination
Workers will have to be informed in writing of the reason for a suspension or deactivation of their account and platform companies will be required to provide a review process that allows workers to present their side and supporting evidence. In response to a review, companies must provide a written explanation of their final decision and will be required to give written notice or compensation for length of service if they decide to terminate a worker’s account, unless there is just cause for the termination.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage
WorkSafeBC workers’ compensation coverage will be extended to online platform workers to make them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and vocational rehabilitation for work-related injuries. Platform companies would be responsible for:
- registering for coverage with WorkSafeBC and paying premiums;
- following health and safety rules;
- reporting injuries and diseases; and
- investigating significant incidents.
While Bill 48 would, if passed, mean that “online platform workers” would be considered employees or workers, respectively, for the purposes of the ESA and the WCA, their status as employees under any other law, such as the British Columbia Labour Relations Code, tax statutes, or the common law, would not be directly affected. Regardless, the new standards will impose significant new obligations on online platform operators and will require advance planning.