A few ways gig workers can look after themselves in the midst of an epidemic
This post is part of a collaborative effort between Startup Portugal, The Next Big Idea, and Sapo24, meant to create relevant content to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Content available in Portuguese.
The gig economy has been on the rise over the last few years and has altered the way that people view and perform work. This economy is made up of a global workforce of freelancers and digital nomads. Gig workers source an income as independent contractors, temporarily contracted to work on specific tasks, or by performing a service, such as offering a ride to a destination or delivery of an item. They can also provide support to companies by operating through their app-based technology platforms.
Gig workers are projected to be the workers of the future, but in a world where countries and companies are shutting down and stalling operations due to the current global epidemic, gig workers do not have the same resources or protections as those working full time at companies. Today, Gig workers are already feeling the financial pressure.
To help ease some of this pressure, here are a few tips and examples we picked up from around the world to help guide our local gig economy. These are lessons gig workers in other countries are busy practicing, learned through their own work experience in the epidemic.
Include a cancellation and rescheduling policy in work contracts
In the gig economy, workers are often contracted to a company, such as Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy or TaskRabbit. These companies act as the middleman through which the worker is connected to, and ultimately paid by, the consumer. But self-employed workers don’t have a human resources department to call on when they don’t get paid. To combat the financial loss that may be incurred when clients cancel a service, legal experts stress the importance of incorporating clearly defined cancellation and rescheduling policies in the employment contracts.
Have a contingency plan to manage expectations during a crisis
A worker can set clear objectives and expectations with clients that acknowledge and address their current situation. This will help maintain the client and customer relationship and put customers at ease during the crisis. It will also help to improve the chance of rescheduling services once things have settled. For prospective customers, this proactive communication shows a strategy and alertness to other unexpected events.
Look out for national aid assistance
Governments all around the world have been proactive in putting aside financial aid for self-employed workers. The government of Portugal has also put in place various measures to help self-employed workers, among others, to combat the financial stresses foreseen during COVID-19. The government has approved extraordinary support for the reduced opportunities that self-employed workers might face and is willing to recover up to 1/3 of their average income.
Don´t be afraid to ask for sick leave
Gig workers are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, yet have the least protection against it. Gig work, with its lack of benefits like health insurance, sick pay and medical assistance, is often perceived as being precarious. But this public health crisis is forcing companies to address the well-being of workers across its ranks and make radical changes to help safeguard their workers against the coronavirus. Uber is now promising to provide its drivers with some paid time off, stating that drivers and delivery people in affected areas will receive compensation for a period of up to 14 days. Instacart has also announced paid sick leave for part-time workers as well as an extended 14-day pay for part-time workers diagnosed with COVID-19.
Although there are uncertainties and pressures, there are still new opportunities arising each day. Workers should take the time to adjust their obligations, tools, and paperwork to best protect themselves and their well being if they are to continue to work during the coronavirus epidemic.
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