Uber expands sick pay for drivers during coronavirus pandemic

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Uber expanded its previously announced policy on sick pay for drivers during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, drivers who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; are personally placed in quarantine or asked to self-isolate by public health officials; or have their Uber accounts suspended as the result of public health advice will be eligible for up to 14 days of paid sick leave, the company said on Sunday. Previously, only drivers who had tested positive for COVID-19 or had been ordered to quarantine qualified to receive paid sick time.

Uber is basing the amount of sick pay a driver receives on their average daily earnings over the last six months. In order to qualify, drivers need to have completed one trip in the 30 days before March 6th. For example, a San Francisco driver who earned an average $28.57 a day would receive up to $400 in financial assistance, while a driver earning $121.42 a day could be eligible for up to $1,700.

Uber says that every eligible driver in the US will receive a minimum payment of $50, even if they have only done one trip, but that the minimum payment will differ by country. Drivers will have 30 days since diagnosis or quarantine date to file a claim online and will be eligible for up to 14 days of compensation.

Ride-hailing drivers are among the most at risk as the virus spreads, both because of the social nature of their jobs and because they don’t qualify for traditional employee benefits as independent contractors. It’s unclear how the pandemic will impact Uber’s business, with many of the people the company typically ferries around opting to work from home and cities ordering local businesses to close and restricting large gatherings of people. The payroll tax cuts and paid sick leave policies being discussed by officials in Washington, DC would not apply to gig economy workers.

Previously, Uber said it would consider suspending the accounts of riders and drivers who have been infected or come in contact with COVID-19. This follows the company’s recent decision to suspend — and then reinstate — hundreds of accounts in Mexico to prevent the spread of the virus.

Lyft has also said it would compensate drivers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined. The funds will be based on the rides they provided on the Lyft platform over the last four weeks, though the company has yet to provide more details.

Driver groups praised Uber for expanding its sick pay policy, but they called on the company to suspend pooled rides in response to “social distancing” advice. “At a time when health authorities are urging social distancing, app companies should not be packing five strangers in a van,” said Uber and Lyft driver and Independent Drivers Guild organizer Tina Raveneau in a statement. “For everyone’s health and safety, pool rides have to go.”

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