What is Alia?
How does it work?
Clients (people who pay someone to clean their home) make contributions to an Alia account, usually at $5 per cleaning.
Cleaners use the contributions from all of their clients to purchase benefits. Currently the following benefits are available:
Paid Time Off
Critical illness insurance
What is the problem?
Not all workers receive benefits.
We think that if you work, you deserve benefits. Most people agree.
More and more people are piecing together a living from more than one source of income. Whether to do with the rise in freelancing, or the expansion of the gig economy, or the growing need for workers like domestic workers who operate in the shadows of the economy, more workers are finding themselves outside the structures that were designed to provide benefits. This is not a new problem, but it is experiencing increased pressure.
How does this affect domestic workers?
Domestic workers have always experienced every barrier to receiving benefits.
Domestic workers operate in the shadows of the economy, so they usually do not benefit from employee benefits. They are low-wage workers, which makes it difficult to afford benefits. And they typically work for multiple clients, whereas benefits are structured to be offered by a single employer.
Benefits need to be accessible to all workers, and we believe that if we can solve this problem for domestic workers, we can solve it for all workers.
We have started by designing Alia to target the needs of housecleaners because they experience the most barriers to receiving benefits, as they typically have around 5 clients. Over time we will adjust the product to suit the experiences of nannies and caregivers.
What is our solution?
Alia approaches the problem from two directions.
Benefits need to be easy for workers to access. They need to be able to sign up easily. They need to be able to take Paid Time Off without the process taking time and energy when they're unwell. They need to easily invite their clients to participate.
Alia enables clients to contribute proportionally according to their engagement of the worker: if they only receive a cleaning once every 2 weeks, their contribution must be proportionate. And they need to be removed from the claims process: they don't want to be involved when a Paid Time Off is claimed, for example.
Alia acts as an intermediary between three parties: the worker, the client and our partner insurance providers. We provide a high-touch sign-up process with workers, but use technology to create a highly automated process for clients.
How is this different from other solutions?
Alia is the only solution that helps workers manage both their benefits and contributions from clients.
Our friends, the Freelancers Union, offer benefits designed for freelance workers, however they do not manage collecting contributions from clients.
Is this "Portable Benefits"?
Yes. Alia is the first, and only, portable benefits tool.
Access to benefits has always been an issue for workers, but it has been discussed more with the rise of the gig economy. In 2015 NDWA Labs joined Silicon Valley investors, CEOs and other worker organizations in signing a letter in support of the development of Portable Benefits. The letter describes what portable benefits should look like, but in summary they are benefits that can accept contributions from multiple sources - or employers - and that are attached to the worker, not the job, and therefore "portable."
Alia is the first benefits tool that allows workers to receive contributions from multiple employers or clients, and that workers can take with them when they leave a job or client.
What progress have we made?
Alia is live, and in beta.
We are working closely with our early adopters to iterate and adapt the program to feedback, to make sure that we are building to the needs of workers. This is guiding the benefits that are available, and the sign-up and claim processes.
What have we learned?
Clients want to do the right thing, they just don't know how.
Everyone agrees: if you work, you deserve benefits. But there needs to be an easy way to do the right thing.
Technology can be a powerful tool for equity.
When we build our values into technology, we can use technology to make the world more equitable.
What do users say?
"We need our house cleaned, and she needs to be able to take a paid sick day when she needs - or to be able to afford insurance coverage - in order to be functional and sustainable. Alia reminds us of the bigger picture of our responsibilities as a domestic employer, and made it so easy for us to do the right thing." Gretchen, Brooklyn.
What are others saying?
Want to help?
We need more beta users!
If you have your home cleaned by a house cleaner, tell them you'd like to contribute to their benefits, and ask them to sign up for Alia here.
If you have friends who use a house cleaner, ask them to consider using Alia too! Send them this link to get started.
We're hiring! Join our team and help us grow Alia.