How Uber, Lyft, Seamless and more are addressing taxed gig economy workers

Brian Heater

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is going to prove a major test of the gig economy. Already an ever-increasingly important part of our daily lives, grocery and food delivery services along with ride-hailing apps are going to play a fundamental role in helping individuals enact government-recommended social distancing.

More often than not, however, these workers get short shrift. Many times those who drive our cars and deliver our food do so with little pay and long hours. As for healthcare, well, that’s a distant dream for many.

This situation is only going to worsen many of these issues, and there’s a very real fear that the United States’ inability to provide the working class with a legitimate social safety net will only incentivize workers to continue to do their job while sick, further exacerbating the spread of the novel coronavirus, in spite of restrictions on gatherings and other attempts to increase social distancing.

Things are changing quickly and will continue to do so. This situation is, in many respects, unprecedented in recent memory. Curbing the impact of COVID-19 and supporting the workers whose job it is to help support those of us who have the job flexibility and financial capabilities to stay at home will require flexibility and creativity on behalf of policy makers. We’ve reached out to a number of those companies whose job it is to ensure the safety and well-being of a team of freelancers.

Delivery.com

The service is among those that have introduced a contactless delivery option, letting users choose from one of three methods:

  • Please deliver to my door
  • Please leave order outside my door
  • Call when here and leave order at building entrance

“We have also taken steps to educate our restaurants, stores and delivery personnel on the importance of these instructions to ensure that your food is brought to you in the safest way possible,” the site writes.

Lyft

In a comment offered to TechCrunch, Lyft says it’s “monitoring the…situation closely.” Here’s the full statementL:

We are monitoring the coronavirus situation closely, and taking action based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Our focus is on keeping our riders, drivers and team members safe. We have an internal task force dedicated solely to this issue, and are prepared to take action as needed.

Postmates

Postmates recently added "non-contact" deliveries to its list of app options. The service launched a Relief Fund aimed at helping shoulder medical expenses for impacted delivery people. It also is offering up to two weeks of paid sick leave for those who test positive for COVID-19.

Seamless

Seamless notes that dine-in has grown upwards of 75% (a number that will no doubt only increase). As such, it will be deferring commission fees to independent restaurants impacted by the crisis. It also is offering of a “contact-free” delivery option.

"For the safety of you and our drivers, drivers will call/text when they arrive and drop off your order on the doorstep, in the lobby or other area designated by you." This option is now available on the website and latest version of the app.

Uber

In a blog post titled “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” Uber laid out next steps over the weekend. The top-level item is financial assistance to drivers who are infected and placed in quarantine by a public health authority. Assistance will be provided for up to 14 days.

“Every eligible driver in the U.S. will receive a minimum payment of $50, even if they have only done one trip,” Uber writes. “The minimum payment will differ by country.”

Uber Eats

Like others, Uber Eats is offering a contactless option. The service is also providing some financial assistance to delivery people and providing more than 300,000 free meals to first responders in the U.S. and Canada.

In Europe, Deliveroo and Glovo introduced contactless options last week.