Warner: Gig economy needs to be flexible in event of coronavirus outbreak

Photo Credit: Peshkova/iStock Photo

Gig worker platform companies need to commit that independent contractors who deliver their services will not be penalized for following recommended health procedures to protect the public from further spread of the coronavirus.

This is the urging of Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in letters sent to the CEOs of UberPostmatesLyftInstacartGrubhub, and DoorDash.

“As the United States mobilizes to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, I write to urge you to publicly commit to prioritizing your workers’ economic security and the broader public health during this response,” Warner wrote.

“I strongly urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for your workers if they are sick or have to self-quarantine during this time. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that platform companies lead by example by committing that economic uncertainty will not be deterrents to their workers following public health guidance during the response.”

Warner acknowledged efforts by some platform companies to provide guidance to workers about how to protect themselves and customers against the spread of coronavirus. However, as the Washington Post recently wrote, gig workers – and contingent workers more broadly – are among the most vulnerable workers to a potential spread of the coronavirus.

Because they are classified by platform companies as independent contractors, many gig workers do not have access to paid leave, employer-provided health insurance, and other benefits.

As a result, many of these workers risk missing income or paying high out-of-pocket healthcare costs if they fully comply with public health instructions to be tested, self-quarantine, or take other “social distancing” measures.

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