Gig work has become a source of major concern in relation to the coronavirus outbreak, with diffuse, largely uninsured workforces putting themselves at risk of infection while also potentially providing a major vector for it to spread. While none of these companies’ responses have been ideal, Postmates revealed a plan today that at least encompasses some proactive measures.
“For it’s [sic] delivery fleet, Postmates has created a fund that will credit Postmates for the costs of doctors appointments and medical expenses related to COVID-19’s impact in over 22 states,” the company wrote in a press release today. The program is set to roll out on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson, though how much couriers can be reimbursed remains a work in progress.
Credits will be applied through the Health Savings Account already in the app—so couriers seeking medical care for this reason will have to set one up if they haven’t already, though they aren’t obligated to contribute to it.
Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, have not made preventative care part of their response to the outbreak, instead offering to compensate affected drivers for up to 14 days.
As we’ve said before, both approaches are essentially the flimsiest imitations of employer-sponsored health insurance and paid sick leave, respectively—things these workers would already have if the owners of these various gig work platforms had not sought to erroneously classify them as independent contractors rather than employees.
Although drivers, couriers, transcriptionists, and other gig workers have fought misclassification for years, the presence of a new and deadly disease appears to be accelerating the need for clarity—especially as their precarious financial situations make them some of the individuals least able to stay home from work to avoid possible infection.
Delivery-side changes in response to a pandemic aren’t all though. Postmates “will waive restaurant commission fees for new merchants in impacted markets, giving small business owners access to on-demand delivery at no additional cost,” the company wrote, although the current definition of “impacted markets” is limited right now to “San Fransisco.” As TechCrunch tactfully put it, the delivery service’s response to coronavirus “is a mix of social good [...] and an attempt to grab additional customers and market share in the time of a crisis.”
Just remember that, as more stories emerge of contractor cabbies and food delivery bikers testing positive for COVID-19, absolutely all of this could have been avoided.
Are you an Uber driver, Postmates courier, or other gig worker worried about coronavirus? Have you made changes to the way you work, or noticed changes within your market? I’d like to talk to you. Contact me via email, Twitter DM, Keybase, or send documents anonymously via SecureDrop.