An Uber Technologies Inc banner hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange.
An Uber Technologies Inc banner hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange.

Food delivery firms start contactless services during pandemic

By Nate Lanxon and Natalia Drozdiak Time of article published Mar 13, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - The increase in quarantined customers has forced food delivery companies to balance a potential boom in orders alongside the risk of spreading sickness to both customers and drivers.

Both Uber Technologies Inc. and Deliveroo have said they’re setting aside funds to compensate drivers who might fall ill or are forced to be quarantined.

London-based Deliveroo budgeted several million pounds to compensate drivers for lost earnings due to the disease, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private. The company will compensate impacted drivers for 14 days above the U.K. statutory sick pay rate, the person said.

Uber has said it will offer drivers in the U.S., U.K. and Mexico compensation for a period of time if they’re diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed in quarantine, and the company is planning to implement the program worldwide.

In a message sent to U.K. customers, Deliveroo Chief Executive Officer Will Shu said the company was launching a “no-contact” service, letting customers ask drivers to leave their food on doorsteps rather than pass it from one hand to another. Uber said Wednesday that users could leave a note on the app asking for a similar drop off.

The person familiar with Deliveroo’s strategy, due to roll out next week, said riders will also be able to elect a no-contact delivery if they choose.

Deliveroo’s other provisions include ordering hand sanitizer on behalf of drivers, and letting customers in some areas of the U.K. order kitchen and household products from supermarkets via the app.

Takeaway.com said that from Friday all its deliveries from restaurants in Europe would be made contact-free. “Delivery couriers are being instructed to ring the customers’ doorbell and to leave the delivery bag at the door,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email.

The workers’ funds have been set up at time when ride-hailing companies are challenging attempts by lawmakers and unions to increase benefits to drivers. In the U.K., the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain has challenged companies such as Uber on whether drivers should be entitled to overtime and holidays.

“If sick pay is the right thing to do in a pandemic when the world is watching, it’s the right thing to do, period,” said Greg Howard, secretary for IWGB’s couriers and logistics branch. “That Deliveroo told the press about this fund before it said a word to its riders is indicative of its priorities.”

In the U.S., Uber and its rivals are also appealing a new law that may end up classifying their workers as employees.

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