Gig companies Uber and Lyft seem to have caved to public pressure to pay SARS-CoV-2 workers who don’t have the option of paid sick leave— thanks largely to their unfair definition of drivers as independent contractors.
Uber released a memo Friday saying that it will give sick pay to staff infected with the novel coronavirus or quarantined by a government health agency. The organization said its distribution staff “would receive compensation for up to 14 days in these cases. This has already begun in some countries and we are focusing on developing strategies to do this globally. “Lyft, meanwhile, told Gizmodo in a tweet on Monday that it” will provide funding to drivers if they are afflicted with COVID-19, or if a public health department places them under individual quarantine. “Whether or not gig employment is a primary or secondary source of income, it can be vital. As recently as last week, most contract workers were advised to either stay home if they felt sick or wash their hands and actually mean it — none of which sufficiently reflects the fact that a lot of people can’t afford to, you know, not work. And because some employees may not be able to take time off to self-quarantine, they may be forced to work, which may place others at risk for the virus to get or spread.
Basically, even contract bosses would be to blame if things got out of hand and they didn’t figure out a plan. Lawmakers, too, took note of the economic crisis posed to contract staff by coronavirus. Last week, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) encouraged gig economy titans Uber, Postmates, Lyft, Instacart, Grubhub, and DoorDash to try to address the employees ‘ potential financial burden if they’re sick or have to quarantine themselves during that period. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is crucial that platform firms lead by example by promising that economic uncertainty will not dissuade their employees as a result of public health advice during the reaction. “Citing sources familiar with the issue, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the big five gigs were engaged in talks to set up a fund that might match An Instacart representative stated to Gizmodo that the organization was engaged in active negotiations with other contract employers but declined to comment on the record.
A DoorDash spokeswoman told Gizmodo in a statement that her “task force” was working on “a comprehensive strategy” to tackle the coronavirus epidemic, “including exploring options with our peer organizations to reward Dashers affected by the novel coronavirus.” The spokeswoman said it supported the use of a feature that allows consumers to inquire for their food to be left at their doorstep,
A spokeswoman for Amazon Flex has assured Gizmodo that it is “actively helping individual, case-by-case workers and contractors. We will continue to evaluate next steps should we see a much broader impact. “The New York Times confirmed Tuesday that a Uber driver from Queens tested positive for coronavirus after experiencing flu-like symptoms at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. More than 40 doctors and hospital staff are now self-quarantined, according to the report, with the government screening those who may have been exposed to the disease. In a statement to Gizmodo, a Uber spokesman said the company has “a dedicated team working closely with public health officials and standing by to assist in any way.” Citing a source familiar with the negotiations, the Journal reported that Postmates are looking to pay for health check-ups for their employees. Reached for comment, Postmates only said that it was planning to announce specific actions for Postmates to fix the virus. It also encourages designated drop-offs, like DoorDash, that minimize the interactions between couriers and customers (but not necessarily restaurant and delivery workers).
Covering staff who plan to be affected for monitoring and check-ups could be a tremendous benefit of detecting the infection earlier— rather than when a patient is already showing symptoms that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that occur up to 14 days after exposure. Yet, again, the scheme will rely on some good faith sick pay for suspected or quarantined employees.
Yet gig-workers have not traditionally proven themselves to be working in good faith— quite the contrary, which is why we’re starting out in this mess. Many businesses do appear to know the possible risk they could have on their hands if they don’t fix the problem quickly. Let’s just hope it is sooner rather than later, for everyone’s sake.