In the US, most working people rely on their employers for critical benefits like health insurance and retirement planning, but as the “gig economy” becomes more mainstream and businesses rely more on contractors and less on permanent employees, this raises some big questions about how benefits will be delivered in the more flexible and dynamic economy we envision for the future. By way of helping answer that question, Care.com, an online platform for family caregivers, has launched a “peer-to-peer” benefits platform that “enables families to contribute to their caregiver’s benefits just as traditional corporate employers do for their employees”:
When a family pays a caregiver through Care.com, a percentage of the transaction is added to the payment to fund the Care.com Benefits program, which helps the caregiver pay for essential family expenses, such as healthcare and transportation. These contributions are pooled with others from household employers paying that caregiver through Care.com. From the program, caregivers receive Care Benefit Bucks, which provide access to benefits that are portable – staying with the care worker even if she changes jobs working for numerous families on Care.com. …
“A strong care workforce is critical to our economy and the well-being of families, yet we lack a scalable solution to provide benefits for these workers who support us all. Today is an important milestone for us to better serve the millions of caregivers in our marketplace, and to enable the families they serve to provide them support,” said Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder, Chairwoman and CEO of Care.com. “Caregivers constitute one of the largest segments of the gig economy and the fastest growing large job category in our country. 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. Pooled, portable, peer-to-peer benefits represent a new model for household employment and an innovative step forward in professionalizing caregivers.”
Professional caregivers such as child care workers and home health aides are among the economy’s most vulnerable workers: They tend to earn low wages, collect no benefits, and enjoy little or no job security, even though the services they provide are highly in demand and so expensive as to be unaffordable for most working families. In their statement, Care.com goes on to explain how the benefits platform will work:
Each time a family pays a caregiver through Care.com, a small contribution is automatically added to the payment. These contributions are pooled together across multiple employers to support the Care Benefit Bucks program. When a caregiver has earned $15 in Care Benefit Bucks, they can be redeemed for a Care.com Benefits reloadable prepaid card, which can be used towards an array of expenses, including doctor co-pays, health insurance premiums, drug store purchases, transportation (e.g., gas, bus passes), and education. Caregivers can earn up to $500 in Care Benefit Bucks annually which, for example, could cover three months of average caregiver insurance premiums or six months of gas.