People who work cleaning or doing other in-home labor who want to take a vacation better have money saved: They usually don’t have access to benefits like disability insurance and paid time off.
Last year, the National Domestic Workers Alliance developed a solution to the issue called Alia, a platform for people who employ home cleaners that lets them pay into a portable benefits fund for each worker. Unlike traditional workplace benefits, which attach to the employer, the Alia funds follow the worker, so they can collect contributions from every person they work for. Alia suggests that employers contribute around $5 into a workers’ fund for every cleaning they do. At that rate, a worker could earn around $150 a month–enough to fund around seven paid days off per year and two insurance products like life or disability (PTO was the main request that workers made to NDWA as Alia was in development).
In the three months it’s been available, NDWA has been mainly focused on growing worker and employer participation on the platform through word-of-mouth. Now a new partnership with the gig economy platform Thumbtack will enable thousands more workers who arrange their schedules and jobs online to gain access to the monthly benefits payments.
“Thumbtack allows us to reach a segment of the workforce that is working and aggregated online,” says Palak Shah, NDWA’s social innovations director. “As the workforce shifts and changes how it organizes, we want to be able to reach workers wherever they are.”
Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the NDWA, and Marco Zappacosta, CEO of Thumbtack, met last year through mutual acquaintances at the Aspen Institute, where they both serve on the Future of Work National Advisory Council. “As our two teams started talking, we quickly saw that there were many areas where our values and goals aligned when it comes to helping workers get the benefits they need,” Zappacosta says. “Thumbtack was actively looking for creative solutions and partners to work with on helping pros get access to portable benefits, and when NDWA gave us a demo of Alia, we thought it would be a great fit for house cleaners on Thumbtack.”
Unlike other gig economy platforms, Thumbtack lets workers on the platform (they call them “pros”) set their own rates. Through the new partnership, Thumbtack will deliver information about Alia to every cleaner on the platform and set them up with an account. Pros who join Alia will get a $25 contribution from Thumbtack to jump-start their benefits pool. Thumbtack will also market Alia to people who employ cleaners through its platform.
For now, Alia’s portable benefits model will be available only to cleaners on Thumbtack. “This partnership and this pilot is about cleaners, because that’s Alia’s focus,” Shah says. But Alia, she adds, is a platform that’s designed to be flexible and adaptable; it could potentially be extended to gig workers in different categories on platforms like Thumbtack.