There are more than 1 million gig workers in Britain who typically have no rights to statutory sick pay (SSP) and are only paid per job because they are treated as self-employed contractors. Couriers are expected to be in high demand during the coming weeks as more people self-isolate and rely on deliveries of essentials.
Unions representing gig workers have attacked “paltry” offers of sick pay for delivery couriers affected by coronavirus that could push them to keep working to stay financially afloat rather than self-isolate. The GMB trade union said it was irresponsible that companies which use the gig economy model “put courier safety and public health at risk by creating disincentives to self-isolation”.
Paltry statutory sick pay for those who have to self-isolate is a financial punishment simply for doing the right thing, flies in the face of advice to employers, and exposes people to harm and hardship,” said Mick Rix, national officer at GMB.
DPD, whose 5,000 couriers deliver parcels for brands including Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, is offering self-employed couriers who need to self-isolate the equivalent of statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week). It is well short of the approximately £550 its drivers with worker status are supposed to earn weekly. DPD has also said costs of renting equipment and vans will not be waived but deferred.Hermes, which has around 15,000 self-employed parcel couriers, will only pay £20 a day to drivers if they need to self-isolate and only if they typically earn less than £90 a day. It means that almost half its workers will receive nothing and those who do will see payments capped at £280 because they are effectively limited to 14 days.
Deliveroo, the takeaway delivery firm, says it will offer its 35,000 riders in excess of SSP, for up to two weeks of self-isolation if they have certifiably contracted the virus, been placed in quarantine by a medical authority or chosen to self-isolate following medical advice. But it did not specify how much higher the payments would be.
DPD Group UK made £118m in profit in 2018 and Hermes made £29m over a similar period. Deliveroo almost doubled its turnover to £476m in 2018.