The IGWB trade union, which represents workers in the ‘gig’ economy, has accused Deliveroo of "PR spin" in relation to hardship fund the company has set up for riders affected by the coronavirus outbreak, describing it as "unworkable" due to the stipulations set down by the food delivery giant in order for people to access funds.
Current government advice is for people who have ecperienced a “recent onset of a new continuous cough and/or high temperature” to stay at home for seven days from when the symptoms began.
People should only contact the NHS 111 hotline if “symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after seven days.”
Because its delivery riders are classified as independent contractors and are not entitled to statutory sick pay, Deliveroo, in common with some other companies operating in the gig economy, has set up a hardship fund.
And with many people self-isolating at home or being told to work from there by their employers, there is additional demand for food delivery services, potentially exposing Deliveroo riders to a greater risk of coming into contact with someone carrying the virus.
According to Deliveroo, its “multi-million” pound fund was set up to pay riders having to self-isolate sums above the statutory sick pay they would be entitled to receive if they were employees, for up to 14 days.
That contrasts with the government’s position, which is that people in the gig economy who are forced to self-isolate can apply for unemployment benefit – a process that can take several weeks for money to arrive, and which is less than statutory sick pay.
The problem with the Deliveroo hardship fund, however, is that to access it, riders need to have been diagnosed with coronavirus, or to have been told by a medical authority that they should isolate themselves, and have documentation to prove it.
That creates a Catch-22 situation, given that people are required to self-isolate for a week before contacting the NHS, and the increasing strain on the service means that even then it may be some time before they see a healthcare professional or are tested for the virus.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which represents people working as independent contractors for businesses including Uber and Addison Lee as well as Deliveroo, has called on the company to provide:
Full pay during sickness or self-isolation
A guaranteed floor in earnings of the living wage plus costs, to protect workers at times of low demand.
Safety equipment to prevent the spread of the virus, including where necessary hand sanitiser, protective gloves, masks and more comprehensive measures in high-risk areas.
Regular medical testing. Couriers’ work means that they are regularly in contact with different members of the public so monitoring that they have not caught Covid-19 is essential.
Enhanced pay for those who continue to work, assuming greater risks and higher workload.
Social distancing policies wherever possible, including the right for couriers to request no-contact delivery drop offs, where those policies aren’t already in place.
Temporary leave funded by companies wherever necessary.
IWGB couriers and logistics branch chair Alex Marshall commented: “Once we pull the curtains on Deliveroo’s announcement on assistance for workers that are sick or self-isolating, it is obvious that behind the PR spin it is more of the same old deceitful tactics.
“Deliveroo and other so-called gig economy employers have to stop blocking their workers’ access to these funds and immediately introduce full contractual sick pay, without pre-conditions.”
He added: “Increasingly, these workers are being expected to play a huge role in feeding people during this time of crisis, so it is time for their employers and the government to give them the basic rights we expect in any decent and just society.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.