Gig economy workers forced to work through injuries

Seventy per cent of ride share drivers have worked while sick or injured or know a colleague who has. And 64 per cent of food delivery workers said the same, according to research from national law firm Slater and Gordon, conducted by Kantar Australia.

Seventy-one per cent of motorcyclist food delivery riders said they had worked while sick or injured or knew a colleague that had. Sixty-five per cent of motorcyclists said it was very serious and they needed medical treatment or it was slightly serious and they could have benefited from medical treatment.

In a national first, the Victorian Government will move to give more rights to these workers and other on-demand workers, to see them classified as employees. Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Craig Lynch said common injuries for riders and drivers included broken limbs with some resulting in permanent injuries, meaning they were unable to take on other work. Mr Lynch said some were forced to continue working as food delivery riders or drivers while injured to pay medical bills and to survive financially without sick leave or guaranteed access to workers’ compensation.

“A worker can end up with limited function of their hand and wrist for example, after falling off their bike, which is likely to have a significant impact on their life. It can cause a great deal of pain and can impact their ability to work in future,” he said.

Mr Lynch said food delivery and ride share workers injured on the roads did not always know they may be eligible to make a motor vehicle accident or workers’ compensation claim.

“Workers considered independent contractors who were involved in a road accident will soon have guaranteed workers’ compensation entitlements available to them in Victoria. Currently, people injured in these circumstances are not guaranteed entitlements or compensation through a workers’ compensation claim because they are not considered employees, but this is about to change for Victorian workers. We strongly recommend they seek legal advice about what options are available to them so they are not left out of pocket for medical fees, treatment, loss of wages and time off work,” Mr Lynch said.

“Most workers give up because they don’t know what their rights are.”

Mr Lynch said apps such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menulog did not pay an insurance premium to state and territory governments to cover workers in case of injury or death like other employers had to.

“Many of the apps have argued their workers are independent contractors, not employees, and say that workers should purchase their own insurance. This means the responsibility is on the worker as they are not guaranteed access to the workers’ compensation scheme,” he said.

“Workers who are considered independent contractors are not given paid time off work to recover from injury or illness. The best outcome for food delivery and ride share workers nationally, would be for them to receive the same comprehensive workers’ compensation entitlements that other workers who are deemed employees receive, if they’re injured or killed while working.”

Injured gig economy workers who asked for help

  • A Victorian worker in his early 20s, came from India to study and had worked for a food delivery app for roughly 18 months before being injured on the road while picking up an order on his bicycle.
  • He required surgery to repair his hand, leaving him with a hospital bill, medical expenses and unable to work for a number of months.
  • He had to continue riding and driving for the app with limited movement in his hand. His second employer refused to provide him with shifts due to his injury.

After seeking legal support, he was recently able to access entitlements through the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) to receive weekly payments for his loss of wages and medical costs.

  • A Victorian rider, who worked for a food delivery app, had his WorkCover claim accepted by WorkSafe after seeking legal support. He was struck by a car in inner city Melbourne in 2019 while parking his motorcycle during a delivery.
  • He lost consciousness and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He has been left with injuries to the neck, shoulder and left foot. He has not worked since the accident and is studying.

He has received medical expenses and weekly payments to cover lost wages and is investigating making a claim for a potential lump sum payment.

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