The gig economy has been under much scrutiny as of late due to the way it pays — or, skirts around paying — its independent contractors. Thumbtack, a platform for finding professionals to do anything from home maintenance do DJing a party, is now offering benefits to some of its independent contractors.
“In a time where it feels like all the stories are about some tug of war between labor and a platform, I hope what this highlights is that there are opportunities for working together and to find solutions that are in service of the broad set of pros and their needs,” Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta told TechCrunch.
This is thanks to Thumbtack’s new pilot partnership with Alia, a portable benefits platform. Alia, which is a project of the National Domestic Workers Alliances Lab, enables customers to contribute to their cleaners’ benefits. These benefits entail paid time off, life insurance and coverage for disabilities, accidents and critical illnesses.
“There’s been a lot of talk about portable benefits,” Thumbtack Zappacosta told TechCrunch. “Really, what we need to do is start experimenting, start learning, start trying and start doing. We found this is a great way to start and improve our relationships with pros.”
Initially, Thumbtack will only offer benefits to its housecleaners in California and New York. Through the partnership, Thumbtack customers will be able to contribute any amount of money to go toward the professionals’ benefits, with the suggested donation being $5. For the first six months, Thumbtack will also contribute $25 to each pro (up to $20,000 in total) who joins Alia.
The relationship between a housecleaner and resident can be very personal and intimate, Zappacosta said. That’s why he believes there is an opportunity to leverage that relationship. Still, customers might not be as willing to contribute as Thumbtack hopes they’ll be, and Zappacosta understands that other approaches may be necessary.
“This is one shot on a goal,” Zappacosta said. “The only way we’re going to learn exactly what works best is by trying. The private sector alone won’t be able to solve this problem. It will require a government solution to make it easier for folks to access benefits who are out of traditional employment structures. This is the start of a long road.”