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Covid-19 and its impact on the gig economy



They have been deemed “essential workers” during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the people who work in the gig economy, delivering food to our doors, do not enjoy the same employment benefits as other workers.

It is an anxious time for all workers but more so for so-called ‘gig workers’ who do not have the security of a steady pay cheque at the best of times, and whose work brings them in contact with others, putting them at risk of transmission.

The restaurant sector has been decimated as a result of the crisis, with a lot of restaurants, which perhaps would not have traditionally offered a delivery service. joining platforms like Just Eat and Deliveroo. 

Just Eat said it has seen a 50% increase in couriers that have delivered an order in recent weeks, and in the month of March, courier applications to the platform increased by 80%.

We do not know exactly how many people work in the gig economy Ireland, mainly because we do not have an official definition for this type of work.

So there is no hard data on how these workers have been impacted by the coronavirus.The World Economic Forum reports that over half of gig workers have lost their job with another 25% seeing their income fall. 

SIPTU research economist Michael Taft believes there is no reason to think the situation would be fundamentally different in Ireland.

“We have as a society begun to appreciate the role of essential workers during this crisis – contract cleaners and contract caterers in hospitals, retail workers, security guards organising queues outside supermarkets, agency health care workers, as well as the young person delivering food to our door.

“However, many of these essential workers are on precarious or even gig contracts and so, suffer uncertain income.”

Gig workers are engaged as self-employed contractors, rather than employees. Platform companies, like Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, describe them as ‘riders’ or ‘couriers’, not employees.

They do not have a duty of care to their ‘users’ or ‘riders’ like traditional companies have towards their employees.

Joanne Hyde, partner and head of employment at Eversheds Sutherland, said the responsibility of employers to people other than their employees is limited by the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act to risks in relation to health and safety at the place of work.  

“Drivers in the gig economy who are self-employed would be in the latter category so have a lesser level of protection  than employees driving for their employer,” she explained.

“There is a logic to this as one would expect self-employed drivers to be providing their own vehicles and ancillary equipment such as helmets whereas in an employment situation, the employer may be providing and/or insuring a company vehicle.”

Some platform companies are providing health and safety advice and guidance, and equipment.

Deliveroo has provided hundreds of masks and hand sanitisers to ‘riders’ in recent weeks. It has also set up a system where riders can be reimbursed up to €20 for the purchase of PPE.

In a statement, Deliveroo said its priority is “the safety and wellbeing of the riders we work with, our customers and restaurant partners.  

“Deliveroo greatly appreciates the hard work of each and every rider in Ireland, who are all providing the essential service of delivering great food to people in their homes at this difficult time.”

Similarly, Just Eat said its highest priority throughout this crisis has been “to protect the couriers it works with, its customers and restaurant partners, providing a financial support for the self-employed independent couriers the business directly engages during this time”.

It 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 and can be claimed weekly in addition to the Covid-19 illness benefit made available by the Government.

“By supporting couriers during a period of self-isolation Just Eat is helping them to manage their finances if they need to stop providing their services for a short period,” it said.

Gig workers are entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment payment so long as they were in self-employment immediately before 13 March, 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 13 March, it would make it almost impossible to access this payment which is open to other self-employed people.

Gig workers may have access to Jobseekers’ Allowance, but this is a means-test payment with a rate substantially lower than the Covid-19 related payments.

Eventually, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be phased out along with the elevated payments under the Covid-19 related Illness Benefit. 

But there will still be a situation where gig workers and precarious workers find it difficult to generate the contributions needed to access social insurance benefits – whether that is short-term unemployment, illness, injury, or maternity or paternity benefits. 

Mr Taft is hopeful that the acknowledgement of these workers as “essential” will heighten awareness of their employment status.

He would like to see legislative action, including these workers’ rights to collective bargaining, to remove the uncertainty of income and working hours.

He said a good starting point would be an automatic presumption of employment with the onus on the employer having to prove otherwise.

“All workers should be subject to stable contracts and equal access to income supports,” he said.

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These gig-economy jobs can earn you extra cash during the coronavirus pandemic — without having to leave your home




Layoffs are mounting as more Americans practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus: some 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week — the highest ever increase in weekly jobless claims.

The dire economic outlook could be leading some to consider “gig” jobs, or temporary jobs, to help them get by until they land a permanent full-time role. Many people turned to the gig economy to pay the bills in 2008, when layoffs were far and wide.

But unlike 2008, laid-off workers need to take into account whether or not the extra money from certain gigs is worth potentially compromising their health. Many gig jobs — like driving for a ride-hailing app — involve close interaction with other people. But earning extra money doesn’t necessarily have to mean putting yourself at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

People turn to gig work when they need money — but the pay isn’t always great

Data suggests that people turn to gig work when they’re in a financial crunch: income typically drops by as much as 10% in the 10 weeks leading up to a when a person takes a gig job, according to an October 2019 report published by the JPMorgan Chase Institute

But pay in the gig economy can be paltry. One of the most well-known gig jobs, driving for Uber
typically pays just $9.21 an hour after fees and other expenses, according to a 2018 report by Lawrence Mishel, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C. Drivers still “typically make less than minimum wage in the large cities,” Mishel told MarketWatch this week.

An Uber spokeswoman refuted the report’s findings, saying it “makes several questionable claims and assumptions while altogether ignoring the flexibility drivers tell us they value and cannot find in traditional jobs.”

These days, rideshare drivers are shifting to becoming food delivery drivers on platforms like Uber Eats, Grubhub

and Instacart. These drivers are allowed to travel freely through regions that have shelter-in-place orders because their services are deemed essential. Uber has been sending alert messages to its drivers encouraging them transition to being food couriers, a spokeswoman said. Last week 15% of drivers who received the message — and had never delivered an Uber Eats order — made their first delivery,” an Uber spokeswoman said.

As people are stuck at home and stocking up on groceries instead of going out to eat, Instacart is looking bring on more than 300,000 new personal shoppers over the next three months. Earlier this week Instacart workers went on strike to demand better safeguards against the coronavirus, including hazard pay.

Read: ‘Anybody who works at this point deserves hazard pay’: The working conditions that led one Instacart worker to strike

Instacart said in a statement that “the health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers, and employees — is our first priority.” The company noted it had 40% more shoppers on the platform Monday than at the same time a week before. Within the last week, 250,000 new people have signed up to become Instacart shoppers, and 50,000 have already started work, according to the company.

Many of these apps offer contactless delivery to help cut down on drivers’ chances of spreading or catching the coronavirus. But there are also some gig jobs that can be performed remotely.

Here are some examples:

Online tutoring and coaching

With schools shifting to distance learning, parents who work full-time jobs are tapping into virtual tutors. One platform, Varsity Tutors, a both online and in-person tutoring platform, launched Virtual School Day two weeks ago.

Virtual School Day is a program that provides daily lessons to K-12 students free of charge. Teachers and people with a background in education are paid as much as $40 an hour for teaching Virtual School Day classes. The service has a “higher bar” for Virtual School Day teachers, said Brian Galvin, chief academic officer for Varsity Tutors.

“They have to propose a range of lesson plans and how to make it interactive for 100+ students,” he said. Teachers have been jumping on the opportunity to teach some of their favorite lessons to students across the country with different backgrounds than their own students, he said.

“Classroom teachers have been saying ‘I have these awesome lessons I didn’t get to cover this year can I bring them to Virtual School Day?’” Galvin was pleasantly surprised both by how many children attend virtual school classes and by how many people with education backgrounds have become Virtual School Day teachers.

Varsity Tutors, a tutoring service that does online and in-person sessions, launched Virtual School Day two weeks ago. The program provides daily lessons to K-12 students free of charge

Varsity Tutors

“It was really heartwarming when a parent asked a first-grade Spanish teacher if she could do another virtual high-five since her child missed it,” he said. One benefit of online learning: Students who might otherwise refrain from participating in class are finding it a lot less nerve-racking, he said.

In addition to Virtual School Day, parents have also been paying for one-on-one online tutoring sessions. The hourly pay tutors earn varies based on subject and expertise but, typically, most make between $15 and $40 an hour, Galvin said.

But academic tutoring isn’t the only type of tutoring that is in demand.

Video game coaching

As more Americans are hunkering down at home, especially in states where shelter-in-place orders are in effect, video games are gaining popularity.

In fact Nintendo Switches



a popular game console, have gone out of stock on sites including Amazon

and Walmart


(Nintendo Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment).

The unprecedented demand from both novice players and experienced gamers has benefitted Rio Spersch’s game coaching side-hustle. Spersch, a 27-year-old based in Vancouver, started offering virtual video game coaching services two years ago on Fiverr
an online market for freelancers.

“After playing Overwatch” — a team-based game in which players band together to defend a fictionalized Earth — “I got pretty decent and I made it to the top 500 ranking,” Spersch, who goes by the name Riverr Blue on gaming platforms, said. He used to offer his teammates tips on how to improve their fighting skills and eventually someone encouraged him to consider charging money for his coaching.

Typically he coaches Fortnite

and Overwatch players for 15 to 20 hours a week. But since his full-time job as an after-school animation instructor for elementary and middle-school students is in limbo after classes were cancelled, he’s been coaching games almost 40 hours a week, earning between $15 to $35 an hour.

“I keep getting dads or couples — and don’t get me wrong, it’s the most heartwarming thing to see them play — but I really prefer to work with kids ages seven to 13,” he said.

He said he would like to expand his business to teach animation classes geared for children over Zoom


In the last week of December, there were 2,794 job openings within the U.S. for e-commerce jobs on ZipRecruiter, a job posting site. Two weeks ago there were nearly six times as many openings in the sector.

“Many stores, especially old-fashioned traditional ones, are really struggling to get any business right now,” Julia Pollak, an economist at ZipRecruiter, said. To open an online shop or list items on sites like Amazon, eBay

and Etsy

many small business owners are looking to hire temporary help.

For instance, a liquor store based in San Diego posted a temporary remote job for someone who is proficient in Photoshop

to help edit photos of its products to sell online. That job pays $14 an hour.

Pollak said she doesn’t expect these jobs to “last very long,” given that traditional stores are likely to shift back to brick-and-mortar operations once shelter-in-place orders are lifted. In the meantime, these jobs are providing some furloughed and laid-off workers with “a safety net” of income that may “help them get out of this rut sooner.”

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More American gig workers facing competition for work as COVID-19 ravages economy, all while trying to avoid v – Chicago Tribune




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