Tech, logistics and gig economy companies go beyond legal reqs to continue paying contract workers during COVID

Anna Triponel

March 9, 2020

A growing number of companies have shut down their offices and are asking their employees to work from home to limit the spread of COVID-19. This means that the services provided by some workers are no longer needed (e.g. those working in office canteens, shuttle drivers, cleaners, contractors providing specific services). Typically, when contract workers are not working, they do not get paid.

Microsoft announced on March 5th that the company would continue to pay the same pay to all of its vendor hourly service providers, as if the office closures had not happened. This decision impacts 4,500 hourly workers working from the Puget Sound region of Washington state, as well as workers in northern California. Although confined to these two locations, the company is exploring how it can proceed in a similar way in other parts of the country and the world. Companies Facebook, Amazon, Expedia Group, Google and Twitter followed suit.

For other companies that rely heavily on self-employed workers as part of their business model (e.g. logistics companies, food delivery companies, car-riding companies), COVID-19 would typically mean that self-employed workers who need to take time off for sickness would not get paid, and may not have work to return to once they are on the mend. Hermes Parcelnet announced on March 6th that it would continue to pay its couriers who need to self-isolate for two weeks, and would create a £1 million support fund to cover these payments. The company also committed to keeping all work available to couriers who need to self-isolate. Deliveroo has followed and states that riders who are diagnosed with Coronavirus are eligible for financial support. Uber and Lyft have made similar statements.

“We appreciate that what’s affordable for a large employer may not be affordable for a small business, but we believe that large employers who can afford to take this type of step should consider doing so.”                      

Brad Smith, President, Microsoft, As we work to protect public health, we also need to protect the income of hourly workers who support our campus (Microsoft, 5 March 2020)

“I hope this has broader implications. In moments of crisis, we take steps that define who we are”                      

Martijn De Lange, CEO, Hermes UK, Delivery firm Hermes to pay gig workers if they must self-isolate (The Guardian, 6 March 2020)

“It is not surprising that tech and logistics companies acted first. Where business models are built on extensive outsourcing, companies are increasingly realising that people they rely on — but who are less visible — need to be protected too”                      

Anna Triponel, Business and Human Rights Expert, Coronavirus puts worker rights and protections top of the agenda (Financial Times, 10 March 2020)

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