This morning I joined Petrie Hosken on the BBC Radio London Breakfast Show. From time to time I am invited to review the day's newspapers and find stories that haven't quite hit the headlines. This was one of those stories (alongside Royal Mail's missing parcels and 'Rear of the Year').
For many years now, we have seen scooter drivers delivering hot food to hungry homebound consumers and Uber drivers scurrying for their next booking. The gig economy has in part opened up a new flexibility in working hours but brought with it a new demand on workers who are neither salaried nor paid by the hour. With this shift towards 'pay per gig' has come an apparent recklessness, not only from the operators, but also from the drivers themselves. One in ten of the surveyed drivers reported that someone had been injured as the result of a crash at work.
As well as a duty of care owed to the worker, operators in the gig economy have a responsibility to the public at large. Quality should be measured by more than the speed of delivery and temperature of the food. By placing a priority on safety - for the driver and for pedestrians and other road users - the operators will benefit from greater public support.
And with many of the food delivery companies offering branded clothing and storage to drivers, it is of concern that 65% were not provided with safety equipment such as hi-vis jackets and 63% were given no safety training on managing risks on the road.
With most drivers using their own vehicles, the rising cost of insurance after an accident (42% reported damage to their vehicles whilst at work), the operators won't necessarily take a hit in the pocket. So, unless the government steps in to address these concerns, it will be down to the public to put pressure on these companies to step up and support their workers, not only for themselves, but for the greater good.
Most respondents (63%) reported that they had not received safety training on managing the risks of the road, the report found. The report author, Heather Ward, said: “Our findings highlight that the emergence and rise in the popularity of gig work for couriers could lead to an increase in risk factors affecting the health and safety of people who work in the gig economy and other road users. “As more workers enter the economy and competition rises, the number of hours they need to work and distances they must travel to earn a stable income both increase.”