Occupational Health and Safety Situations of Airbnb Hosts in Ontario

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Julia GOYAL, University of Waterloo, Canada
Ellen MACEACHEN, University of Waterloo, Canada
Introduction: This study focuses on Airbnb, the world’s largest shared accommodation provider. The economic impact of Airbnb on the hotel and tourism industries as well as the housing market has been well-studied, fueling current discussions on the need for tighter regulations for Airbnb. In particular, various occupational health and safety (OHS)implications need to be considered, especially as Airbnb hosts are self-employed workers and the protections under the Employment Standards Act do not apply to them. Airbnb appears to have adopted a rather laissez-faire attitude in relation to ensuring OHS, and there is scant literature on the OHS in Airbnbs. The closest comparator to Airbnb is hotels, and numerous studies speak to the OHS risks faced by hotel workers. This study explores the OHS situations of hosts, to inform the gap between policy and practice.

Objectives: To explore the OHS standpoints and experiences of Airbnb hosts, and identify challenges and possible changes in Airbnb’s practices to improve their OHS

Methods: A critical realistic study on shared accommodation with Airbnb hosts will be conducted in Ontario, Canada. Drawing on document analysis of online forum posts as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews with Airbnb hosts, this study will explore how hosts identify, experience, and perceive OHS risks within the system. Documenting these experiences will position the OHS risks in the day-to-day contexts within which hosts live. In addition, a gender critical lens will help recognize differential experiences of OHS.

Implications: This study is the first of its kind, to the best of our knowledge, to study the OHS of Airbnb. As the sharing economy grows, it is important for us to consider the implications of Airbnb hosts’ OHS. These OHS considerations will help inform policymaking and practice for housing, hotels, and short-term rental companies.