Workers compensation in a gig economy: How it works

Between September and November 2020, five food delivery drivers were killed on Australia’s roads. These men were delivering meals for the likes of UberEats, DoorDash, and Hungry Panda.

If these men had been employed directly by the restaurants they were delivering for, they would likely have been covered by their employers Workers’ Compensation insurance, and their families would have received appropriate compensation for their deaths. But, as laws in this country currently stand, their families are only entitled to whatever compensation is laid out in their employer’s insurance policies, unfortunately not the same cover that all employees must have in Queensland in accordance with the relevant legislation, entitling every worker in Queensland to certain benefits.

You see, the majority of drivers working for global giants like UberEats, Deliveroo and DoorDash are part of a burgeoning ‘gig economy’.

The definition of a gig economy is an industry that relies on short-term contractors or freelance staff, rather than employing staff for permanent jobs.

It’s cheaper for big businesses, and while contractors might get paid a slightly higher hourly rate than minimum wage, they’re not entitled to the more important things: sick leave, annual leave, or workers compensation if things go wrong on the job.

It’s not just the food delivery sector either. Other ‘gig economy’ jobs include Uber and Lyft drivers, tradies who respond to jobs on AirTasker, and homeowners advertising properties on AirBnb. Who looks after them if they’re involved in an accident and injured on the job?

While companies like Uber provide their drivers with insurance cover, the benefits are minimal when compared to permanent employees.

The deaths of these young men, and serious injuries of countless others, have highlighted just some of the dangerous conditions these workers have to contend with, as well as asking the question: who protects the workers, if not the people hiring them to do the work?

It’s a complex situation. And it’s one many of us in the legal industry are trying to fix.

We’re hoping that the Australian government will change its laws, protecting the rights of gig workers in this country. A recent law change in California has seen companies reclassifying their contractors as employees, meaning they’ll be protected by employment law in the event of an on-the-job accident.

Here at Gouldson Legal, we believe everyone is entitled to fair legal representation, regardless of their financial situation or background. The families of these drivers shouldn’t be battling in the courts to claim reasonable compensation. It’s just not right.

If you or a family member has a job as a delivery driver, a rideshare driver, or are working as a short-term contractor in the gig economy and want to know more about your rights, please get in touch. As these industries pick up a bigger workforce, it’s important you know who to speak to if you’re injured on the job, and how you and your family can get help.

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