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Coronavirus: More Than A Runny Nose For Workers In The Gig Economy – Employment and HR

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Coronavirus: More Than A Runny Nose For Workers In The Gig Economy


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As the coronavirus grips the world economy, governments and
businesses are considering increasingly drastic action. But as
companies move forward with plans to look after employees via
self-isolation and remote working, spare a thought for the UK’s
5 million self-employed gig economy workers. We take a look at the
impact of the virus on these individuals, the legal position, and
what employers and gig workers can do to mitigate the
situation.

Impacting the ability to work

Last week, Twitter wrote to all 4,000 of its global
employees ‘strongly encouraging’ them to work from home for
the foreseeable future. Google Ireland effectively closed its office over fears that an employee
may have been exposed to the virus. Technology is certainly at hand
to enable some types of employees to continue to work during office
shut-downs, minimising the impact to business.

Many gig workers, however, aren’t able to do their work from
home. Taxi drivers, couriers, food delivery cyclists and shop floor
staff on zero-hours contracts all work jobs which involve a high
level of human contact. They also share another important trait: no
relationship of employment exists between them and the companies
which engage them to work.

By being classed as self-employed, companies have no obligation
to provide gig workers with any work, and no obligation to provide
or even suggest alternative methods of working. We have already
started to see this in the context of the coronavirus when Uber suspended the account of the driver who took a
patient to hospital who was later diagnosed with the virus.

What the law says

Due to their self-employed status, gig workers are not eligible
for statutory sick pay (SSP). For employees, the government has
announced a raft of temporary measures which provide for
SSP to begin immediately (rather than the usual 4 day gap) and be
payable even if the employee is not actually sick (i.e. are
self-isolating). None of these measures apply to gig workers, whom
the government says should seek support via the benefits system.
Whilst payments are being sped up and certain restrictions on
claiming are temporarily relaxed, navigating the complex benefits
system will be unfamiliar territory to many of the self-employed.
There ultimately remains no statutory support for workers in the
gig economy.

The 2017 Taylor Review made 53 recommendations to
address the gap in workers’ rights, with Theresa May’s
government agreeing to implement all but one of them, and go even
further in certain areas. However, a change in the executive and
the resource-vampire that is Brexit has pushed any legislation to
the side lines. In a Brexit double-whammy, the EU have started to
look into legislation to protect gig workers, but the UK will
almost certainly not be required to implement EU legislation by the
time it is finalised.

Mitigating the impact

Although those who take up gig work as an extra source of income
are likely to value their health over the extra cash, the reality
is that, for many, gig work is their sole source of income. Many
gig workers are also young and therefore less likely to exhibit
symptoms and more likely to need the cash – exacerbating the
spread of the virus by continuing to work.

Companies are encouraged to support their gig workers by
exercising discretion to provide sick pay to those struck off with
the virus or in precautionary quarantine. Other forms of support,
including the provision of protective equipment and a commitment to
discussing cases on an individual basis are also welcomed.
Companies should also be wary of action from Trade Unions, who have hit back at companies enforcing
self-isolation on gig workers
.

Gig workers should ensure they have their own health and that of
their co-workers and customers at the forefront of their minds. If
exhibiting the relevant symptoms, individuals should stay at home
and seek advice and support from NHS 111 and the company they work
for.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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Economy

Payfare and Wise to bring money transfer services to the gig workforce

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Payfare, a Canada-based fintech, has partnered with money transfer company Wise to bring their capabilities to the gig economy in North America.

Beginning 2022, the North American gig and contract workers Payfare supports will be able to send money abroad instantly via Wise’s payments infrastructure, directly from Payfare digital banking apps. Payfare, who works with on-demand platforms, will be the first to leverage Wise to enable the growing gig economy to send money internationally.

With its mission of making international money transfers fast, cheap and convenient, Wise helps people and businesses move and spend money in over 56 currencies. With price transparency, including low cost pricing, and the use of real-time exchange rates, Wise aligns with Payfare’s mission to augment financial inclusion for the global gig economy.

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Economy

the gig economy of clinical trials

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Hawthorne Effect is a startup that uses a gig economy model to recruit medical professionals and conduct clinical trials whenever is most convenient.

Jodi Akin, the CEO and founder, has curated more than 1,500 medical professionals to meet patients at their homes, a nursing home or even a hotel room to collect blood work, run labs and check-in on patients. Here along with physician assistant Lisa Taxin Porter, they tell us why this model is more effective compared to traditional clinical trials. 

Why did decided found Hawthorne Effect? 
Akin: I founded Hawthorne Effect after almost 27 years of leading, designing, and operationalising clinical research globally. During that time, I started to realise that patient follow-ups were problematic to the success of clinical trials. I worried that without patients’ ability to return to the trial site — we wouldn’t be able to collect representative and accurate follow-up data.

Many trials require patients to come back anywhere from two to five times for additional data whether it be blood, echocardiograms, or other complex evaluation procedures. And, a lack of robust data could lead to delays in bringing new medical therapies to patients who needed them most. The main principle that led to the founding of Hawthorne Effect was to conduct complete, complex assessments whenever, wherever, and however the trial and patient require to deliver trusted and timely data to the investigators. 

What are the main challenges to conducting clinical trials?
Akin: Historically, clinical trials led to many breakthroughs in healthcare and medicine, however, trials weren’t always representative of diverse populations, leading to further widening of the equity gap in medicine and healthcare. Oftentimes, socio-economic and geographical barriers limit patients’ engagement in trial participation.

What are the consequences of this on drug development?

Akin: The main goal of clinical trials is to enroll a diverse and representative population so that new medical recommendations can be generalised across such groups. These barriers are a well-known problem in the industry and despite efforts and initiatives over the past three decades to increase diversity in clinical trials, not a lot of progress has been made.

Still today,  Black, Latino, Native American and Asian populations represent 0.5% to < 5% of study populations on average, which is far less than their representation of our population as a whole. Why this happens all boils down to access, and access alone is multilayered: geo-local (clinical trials don’t happen where patients live), economic (financial burden of patient follow up visits such as travel and copays), scheduling (clinics provide limited windows and hours for visits, competing with work, life, etc), and more importantly, cultural and trust barriers.

Furthermore, clinical trials must go on until clinicians collect enough robust data to submit to regulatory bodies such as the FDA for review, which is tough to accomplish as 50% of trials end with missed patient visits and/or patients dropping out completely. I also believe participants may not be aware that their involvement in trials can not only provide them with access to care but that they also may have a tremendous impact on the future of medicine, touching billions of people. 

What has the pandemic highlighted about clinical trials? What impact has it had, if any, on the way trials are conducted?
Akin: The pandemic accentuated the clinical trial continuity challenge, especially since clinical trials experienced a 70% decline in enrolment and an increased rate of missed or incomplete study visits during this time.

This further cemented the need for decentralised clinical trial solutions like Hawthorne Effect and the enablement of remote clinical visits (in-person and virtually) that put patient experience first. At the end of the day, decentralised clinical trials offer patients improved access and enable researchers to mitigate access barriers by conducting trial assessments anywhere, compared with trials that require patients to continually travel to that site. We’ve found that patients are more willing to engage in a trial long-term if they’re able to do so on their own time and turf. 

What is the gig economy model as it applies to clinical trials? 
Akin: Hawthorne Effect follows the gig economy model by bringing clinical trials to patients through its global network of Heroes, composed of medical professionals that are specifically curated, certified, and trained for clinical trial visits in-person and virtually.  Heroes are there to support patients on their own terms throughout the clinical trial lifecycle and carry out complex evaluations, such as blood work, physical and neurological assessments, and more, in the comfort of the patient’s home or any other remote locations of their choosing.

This model reduces patient burdens as they no longer have to travel long distances and schedule follow-up appointments to participate in potentially life-saving clinical trials. Even if patients have no internet access, Hawthorne Effect is able to collect data. We’ve found that by providing a decentralised solution patients are more likely to complete the trial, which results in robust data that we can collect to continue to make an impact in medicine, research, and healthcare in general. 

Porter: The gig economy model that Hawthorne Effect has adopted allows Heroes like me to supplement their income by choosing to accept clinical trial follow-up visits. We get notified by the Hawthorne Effect App that a patient visit is needed. The assignment will list the distance, compensation, and the necessary certifications needed to conduct the visit.

We select our availability out of multiple dates and times. If it’s a match with the patient’s availability, then we get a notification that we’ve been selected! The app is very user-friendly. If you are a medical provider and want to work on your day off or get more hours in, Hawthorne Effect’s gig economy model allows you to “pick up” visits as it fits into your schedule. I’ve never been a 9-5 worker and this model gives me the flexibility and options to pick up additional work whenever I want.

Can this model help to ensure more diverse groups of participants? 
Akin: Yes, Hawthorne Effect’s Heroes network is spread out and can meet patients anywhere, which removes the geographical barrier that many patients face. This changes the model of participation by addressing these barriers not only for ethnic diversity but also gender, age, and other considerations.

The healthcare industry may be resistant to change but this model is making progress to include more diverse populations in the future of medical technologies. We do not have to sacrifice the quantity or quality of data in clinical trials, just because patients aren’t in physical investigation sites.

We are creating infrastructure to better optimise the entire clinical trial ecosystem and embracing technology for better data capture. This effort will, of course,  require better collaboration between technology, health systems, industry, regulators, and the ultimate stakeholder – patients.

Porter: I believe this model does allow for a more diverse group of participants. Hawthorne Effect Heroes are able to accommodate patients located all over the country, in urban and rural settings. I’ve been offered to take visits in many interesting places, and I live in Philadelphia!

As far as what else can be done, it’s getting the word out. I bet there are providers that are eager to further their impact in the medical field in all areas of the country that don’t know that an option like Hawthorne Effect exists.

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The CEO of Instacart challenger Point Pickup wants to save the gig economy – and win over workers – by making gig work a dependable job with perks

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walmart go local
Point Pickup and its national network of 350,000 drivers make deliveries for Walmart, Kroger, and other major grocers.

  • Point Pickup CEO Tom Fiorita said the gig work his delivery company relies on isn’t sustainable.
  • He’s launching a digital platform to increase transparency and community for retail gig workers.
  • The platform, GigPoint, is in an invite-only beta test now and will fully launch later in the fall.

For the founder and CEO of a gig economy delivery company, Tom Fiorita has surprisingly little faith in the gig economy.

Fiorita calls his outfit, Point Pickup, the largest delivery company nobody’s heard of. Founded in 2015, its national network of 350,000 drivers make deliveries for Walmart, Kroger, and other major grocers. Its drivers and shoppers, and millions like them who work for Shipt, Instacart, DoorDash, and more, take on work one task – or gig – at a time.

Retailers have rapidly adopted the model throughout the pandemic as delivery became an essential service. And though their conditions vary, Fiorita said the group as a whole must change to survive.

That’s because the gig economy, while meeting the challenge of lightning-fast delivery, presents new problems. Workers are siloed from one another and contend with a lack of consistency or transparency – they often don’t know how much they’ll earn by day’s end when they start. They don’t have a central place to go for community or financial services tailored to their needs.

“The current way it’s being done, we believe, is not sustainable in the future,” Fiorita said.

That’s why he’s launching GigPoint, an online platform for gig workers that aims to make this kind of work a viable way of life in the long-term – and a viable business model.

The platform has launched an invitation-only beta test offering insurance purchasing, banking services, and a rewards system where workers earn points to exchange for cash bonuses, vacations, and discounts. The full version will launch for all Point Pickup drivers in the fall, and expand to the entire gig ecosystem in the future.

‘The system’s gonna break’

The pressure is on to make gig work a better gig. Workers don’t often stay loyal to any given platform, and retaining gig workers tends to be harder than recruiting them to start with.

“We see it all the time, they end up bopping around,” Fiorita said. He sees that “bopping around” as a threat to his company and the broader industry of gig delivery.

“It’s gonna break,” he said. “There’s too much fragmentation.”

The GigPoint platform aims to encourage workers to keep coming back with features the company said address workers’ top priorities, including financial services like microloans and the ability to work out recurring shifts with predictable income.

“Everything you need to be successful at gig work and be sustainable so you can continue to do it for a long period of time,” Fiorita said.

‘A wave we cannot stop’

Major gig players like Instacart, DoorDash, and Postmates could all eventually be GigPoint clients, Fiorita said. So could retailers that don’t currently use gig workers. He aims to grow the platform into a digital hub for work that’s increasingly being outsourced to gig workers, like counting inventory, seasonal cashier work, and resetting store displays.

GigPoint platform could be a homebase for any kind of retail gig, Fiorita said, with a more mindful and “caring” approach.

The company has yet to work out the finer points of how the platform will work. “We are working with gig worker focus groups now to determine the best business model,” a spokesperson told Insider. “We’re also discussing models with our retail clients – but not ready to discuss details at this time.”

Still, the overall approach could benefit the gig companies, too, since the legal challenges to gig work are unlikely to stop.

“It’s a wave that we cannot stop. I think the government knows it,” Fiorita said. “We’re enabling the ability for true flex work as an actual classification of a worker in this country.”

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