A gig economy app developed in Toronto could potentially change the way businesses in the area retain workers - but it poses several insurance challenges.
The app, Hyr, allows restaurants and bars to connect with temporary workers – the same way Uber relies on gig drivers to provide rides to customers, or Airbnb calls for homeowners to serve as hosts. Launched in February 2017, the app has been used by about 300 restaurants in Toronto, and over 5,000 workers have logged on.
"We've grown exponentially," Hyr co-founder Erika Mozes told CBC News. "The first demand for it really came from workers because [of] this new economy and the way that people want to be able to make money when they want to make money."
To use the app, workers must create a profile that contains their skill level, preferred pay, and a photo. Participating restaurants also create their own profiles. Restaurant managers can then view worker applications and choose the one they want to employ on a per-shift basis.
For its part in facilitating the work arrangement, Hyr takes between 19% and 30% of the cut of the earnings. Once the shift ends, both the worker and restaurant can rate each other.
Mozes said workers on the app are typically aged between 19 and 29 – women also make up at least 60% of the workers on Hyr.
Researchers from the MaRS Discovery District are studying Hyr and how its business model would dictate the future of work; they also provide advice to the app’s team.
"What's really interesting about Hyr is that it speaks to a very interesting demographic that allows them to gain experience, fund what they want to do and […] helps them find a path forward," said MaRS managing director of work and learning Krista Jones. "I think contingent work is a permanent part of what work looks like in the future [...] it's what people want as well as how our business models are evolving."
Jones, however, shared concerns that the gig economy model has issues regarding insurance.
"That layer of social safety net that is known to be part of the Canadian way of life is missing," she explained. "We don't have the right policies; we don't have the right capabilities, whether it's from insurance and short- and long-term disability, and those types of activities, we don't have the mindset for how we fund those in a gig-like economy."
Hyr currently has a rudimentary benefits system. Under the app’s system, workers earn points for every dollar earned using the app. Once a certain number of points is reached, they can take a paid sick day or vacation day.
Mozes believes this system can be changed to offer insurance instead.
"Hopefully, by the end of this year, instead of a vacation day we're going to partner with an insurance provider so they can get health or dental benefits or insurance," she said.
The co-founder also revealed that the app has plans to expand into Toronto’s retail market sometime later this month.