The expanding vulnerability of gig economy workers

Cameron Tout

The COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne led to gig-economy workers, the people delivering food and groceries to Melbournians isolating at home, being hailed as the unsung heroes of the time. The Government response to the pandemic and the increase in people needing to find alternative work also fed the growth in the size, profitability and number of companies offering to organise food and grocery deliveries easily from a phone app. It is now almost impossible to walk through most of Greater Melbourne without seeing a fleet of bicycles scurrying about with a padded bag on the back emblazoned with the logo of Uber Eats, Menulog, Deliveroo, Doordash, HungryPanda, Easi and Fantuan.

But the status of these workers and their employment, safety and compensation rights has been difficult to ascertain. The contracts between these companies and their workers defines their relationship as that of independent contractor, alienating the workers from the rights and benefits employees hold. Government Inquiries have been held into how these workers should be classified and how they might be better protected.

The most confronting examples of the disadvantages such workers are at due to them not being considered employees have been stories of these workers being injured or killed while collecting or delivery the orders they have received.

In some circumstances, the Workers Compensation legislation in Victoria looks past the wording of the agreement between a company and a person engaged to work for it that specifically states that the worker is an independent contractor. If the relationship looks, sounds and smells like one of master and servant, the legislation will dictate that the independent contractor is to be considered a worker with the rights to compensation that a regular employee is entitled to.

But even this aspect of the legislation falls short of protecting gig economy workers. Further, this year the High Court of Australia handed down a decision in relation to how the Courts are to assess whether a contract between a principal and independent contractor in fact amounts to contract of employment. The effect of the decision is to restrict the use of considerations outside the wording of the contract to make such an assessment.

The effect of these decisions and the limited scope of the Workers Compensation legislation to bring in such workers under the protective umbrella of compensation rights means that gig economy workers will continue, without legislative change, to be unprotected.

What if I am injured whilst working delivering food or groceries for Uber Eats, Menulog, Deliveroo, Doordash, HungryPanda, Eas, Fantuani or another delivery service?

Given the lack of entitlements to Workers Compensation, it is important to get advice as soon as possible after you are injured.

If you are injured due to the driving of a motor vehicle, you are entitled to compensation through the Transport Accident Commission. It is important that you:

  • Seek first aid if necessary. Request an ambulance or attend the emergency department of the nearest hospital if necessary.
  • Get the details, including name and registration number, of the driver of the vehicle.
  • Get the contact details of any other witnesses to the incident.
  • Report the incident to the police and retain the name of the officer and the police station you have reported the incident to.
  • Contact the Transport Accident Commission to lodge a claim by phone (1300 654 329) or complete an online lodgement form at https://www.tac.vic.gov.au/what-to-do-after-an-accident/how-to-claim/how-to-lodge-a-claim-with-the-tac 
  • Obtain specialist advice about your injury and compensation entitlements under the TAC compensation scheme.
  • If you are injured due to a defect in the road or footpath or due to road works or building construction works that alter the conditions of the road or footpath, you may have a public liability claim. Again, it is important that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible. You should also:
  • Take photos of what caused your injury.
  • Get the contact details of any other witnesses to the incident.
  • Report the incident to the Local Council of the area that the incident occurred.
  • Obtain specialist advice about your injury and your potential entitlements.

If you are injured to the actions of another person, whether intentional or not, you may have the ability to bring a claim against them or, in limited circumstances, their employer if they were working at the time of the incident. It is again important that you week appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible and:

  • Get the contact details of the person who caused the incident.
  • Get the contact details of any other witnesses to the incident.
  • If the person involved deliberately caused the injury, such as by assaulting you, you should report the incident to the police.
  • Obtain specialist advice about your injury and your potential entitlements.

Longton Compensation Lawyers – Your Guardian in Law

At Longton Compensation Lawyers we have extensive experience in all types of compensation law. We will be able to advise you as to your potential entitlements and will make sure you obtain the maximum compensation possible.

*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action.*

Key Contact

Cameron Tout
Special Counsel | Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist VIC

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Another successful medical negligence claim for a couple
Another successful medical negligence claim for a couple