The insurance industry should expect to see a change in how gig economy workers view themselves, what they believe they are entitled to, and what they come to expect when and if they return to their gig work post-pandemic, warns a new report from experience design and innovation company Cake & Arrow.

An estimated 30-40 percent of U.S. workers are employed in the gig economy, even if only part-time. Gig workers are classified as independent contractors, leaving them without access to paid sick leave, employee-sponsored health insurance, workers comp and disability insurance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of these gig workers to our economy and to the health of our society. Many of these workers are on the front lines performing essential jobs: delivering packages, supplies and food; shopping for groceries; caring for the sick in their homes. Not only are these jobs essential, but they are often risky and poorly paid.

Gig economy workers have already begun trying to use their collective power to push for increased wages and protections during the pandemic, and Cake & Arrow expects the trend to increase as these workers begin to realize how essential they really are. They may begin to demand certain kinds of protections and insurance coverage before taking on gig work. Insurers should be prepared to provide unique insurance products and offerings designed for all types of gig workers, either through the larger tech companies that hire these workers or through the government.

Also among Cake & Arrow’s advice for insurers:

  • Insurance companies should look to create something similar to a mutual insurance model, which is self-organized and self-funded, but with insurance companies as the platform. The coverage could be packaged and sold to professional organizations and collectives of gig workers in the same way insurance products are sold to employers for their employees.
  • Insurance companies should also look for ways to offer immediate, tangible relief to their customers in times of crisis—for example, the premium refunds many auto insurers are offering customers while their cars remain largely unused during the lockdown. This is especially crucial with gig workers, who tend to have little in terms of a safety net.

The full report is: Covid-19 & the Gig Economy: A Reckoning for the Insurance Industry