Covid-19 and its Impact on the Gig Economy

Covid-19 and its Impact on the Gig Economy

According to Investopedia; the gig economy involves a situation whereby “temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.”

A typical example of this type of work would be food delivery drivers e.g. UberEats, Deliveroo, etc. This nature of work is, at the best of times, unstable, but in a time of extenuating circumstances it is even harder for these workers to keep their heads above water.

Due to the global pandemic of Covid-19, gig workers find themselves in an unfortunate predicament. As these individuals are not technically ‘employees’, they do not enjoy the employment benefits associated with permanent roles; for example – they will not be entitled to subsidised wages if their work hours are cut as a result of the current situation, and as they are considered essential workers (where would we be without our takeaway on a Saturday
night?), they are not entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment payment of €350 per week if work is still available.

Gig workers in Ireland are entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment payment so long as they were in self-employment immediately before 13th March 2020, and trading income had ceased. However, they choose their hours which are often erratic and intermittent, making it difficult to meet these conditions. If they were not working directly before the 13th March 2020, it would make it almost impossible to access this payment which is open to other self-employed people. They may, instead, be entitled to Jobseekers’ Allowance, if suddenly unemployed, but this payment is only €203 per week which is substantially lower than the Pandemic Unemployment payment.

These gig workers are also at a high risk of contracting the Coronavirus as they are in direct contact with other people, and because they are considered contractors as opposed to employees, they are not protected by employer liability.

Just Eat has made available a ’14-day Courier Relief Payment’ to those who may become ill or need to self-isolate as a result of the virus;

Specifically:
• Couriers that are self-isolating will be able to access a 14-day relief payment, equivalent to two-thirds of their average weekly fees from the past 6 weeks
• Every regular courier on the Just Eat platform who has been actively delivering on the Just Eat network for 6 weeks will be able to access this support
• Any courier who is eligible for the pay-out because they are unable to work will receive weekly payments throughout the 14-day isolation period

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