A Halifax human resources firm is pioneering a new service for clients that it calls “cluster employment”, which it hopes will improve working conditions for part-time or gig workers.

Placemaking 4G has launched the service that’s helping workers land positions with benefits for multiple employers, and it has already had success in finding jobs for people.

The system allows employers who only need a part-time employee to come together and share a worker, ensuring that he or she has enough work to get by and access to the benefits that would come with a full-time position.

“It’s the future of employment,” Matt Thomson, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of P4G and Cluster Employment, said in an interview. “We’ve had the opportunity to present this [at international employment forums] and there’s an opportunity here to redefine the way employment looks.”

Three years ago, he and his Co-Founders Bradley Daye, Sylvia Abdelgawad and Patrick Adeyemi formed P4G and soon after began to work on a problem that afflicted both employers and potential employees.

They found a lot of companies and organizations that need employees, but can’t afford to bring on someone full-time. Meanwhile, many employees face problems in the gig economy because they can only find part-time positions that are unstructured and offer no benefits.

“We were working on the South Shore and we had employers looking to us and saying they only had a need for a part-time employee,” Thomson said. “Usually, we couldn’t help them. When that bell kept being rung, we recognized that there was potentially an opportunity to provide a solution.”

So they formed a sister company called Cluster Employment.

Using this company’s website, an employer can post a part-time position – let’s say a social media manager – and invite other employers to join it in finding a suitable person. Two or three other employers come in and they all agree to share a person to manage their social media accounts.

Together, they check out applicants and agree to hire an employee between them, complete with benefits. The lead employer draws up a contract that is acceptable to all parties and the employers share the costs. Thomson said the system can be used for a vast array of jobs, everything from marketing management to graphic designers to human resources or even executive directors for preschools.

There are now about 100 users on the Cluster Employment website. Five clusters of employers have formed and three of these clusters have hired an employee. Thomson estimates Cluster Employment will place about 30 employees in Nova Scotia in the next 12 months.

P4G believed this was a good idea before the pandemic struck, but the advantages of this structure have only multiplied in the last eight months. Obviously, unemployment has increased, and employers are more willing to take on remote employees or consider unconventional employment models.

Thomson said Cluster Employment allows rural businesses, which often have trouble finding specialized personnel, to collaborate with organizations in other centres to find staff. The group is beginning to work with employers in different provinces to help them find staff.

“We’re incredibly proud of being able to pioneer this in Nova Scotia,” said Thomson, adding his company wants to take this model across the country then into international markets. “The opportunity for a country like the U.S. to adopt a platform like this where healthcare benefits are part of part-time employment is huge.”