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Long-term-care homes needed staff during COVID-19. So they turned to gig workers. Inside the ‘Uber-ization’ of health care

March 19, 2021 talks to Josh Mandryk about the Uber-ization of everything

Josh Mandryk spoke to about the proliferation of apps designed to link “independent contractors” with organizations who need workers, including those in the health care sector.

The Facebook posts began in the fall: health-care jobs on demand.

The source was a company that once filled shifts for kitchens and caterers. Now, there was a new area of need: outbreak response.

Staffy is an app, not a temp agency, its ads say. Its “on-demand platform” boasts qualified health-care contractors — not employees — who can be approved to work within 24 hours and enjoy “full control” over their schedules and pay rates.

“You decide your worth,” read Staffy’s job posts.

To proponents, it’s a modern solution for a sector besieged by staffing issues and pushed to crisis point by COVID-19. To critics, it’s an extension of a long-standing problem undermining care standards: precarious employment.

“When people talk about the Uber-ization of everything, this is what they’re talking about,” said Josh Mandryk, a labour lawyer with Toronto-based Goldblatt Partners.

As temp agencies fill critical staffing gaps caused by COVID-19, some workers delivering essential care across the province are now classified as independent contractors — who are not entitled to basic workplace protections like overtime pay or a union.

While apps may be more hands-off, that does not necessarily mean workers are true independent contractors — who essentially function as mini-entrepreneurs, said Mandryk, the labour lawyer.

“The core question that cuts to the heart of the issue is, whose business is it?” he said. “I think when you ask that question, it’s clear that these folks are not independent business people.”

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Joshua Mandryk

Practice Areas

Employment Law