Posted on 16 Mar 2021
Nearly half (45 per cent) of migrant ride share and food delivery workers didn’t know they would not receive workers’ compensation insurance when they signed up to gig economy work.
This is compared to 28 per cent of Australian workers who said they did not know either, according to Slater and Gordon research, conducted by Kantar Australia.
Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Jasmina Mackovic said injured gig economy workers were being left out in the cold because they are considered contractors and not employees meaning they are unable to access workers’ compensation.
“Being without workers’ compensation means you are not guaranteed loss of wages payments, medical payments or a lump sum for impairment suffered if injured or ill and you cannot work,” Ms Mackovic said.
“These gig economy companies are avoiding their responsibilities to adequately protect the people who work for them and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable. English is their second language, they have not been in Australia long and they don’t always know their legal rights.”
Ghalia Bazerji found herself unable to work, without an income and facing out of pocket medical expenses after she was hit by another vehicle while on her way to pick up a passenger in August 2018.
The Uber driver and mother of four was left with a fractured left middle finger, injuries to her hands, neck, chest and back, as well as breast, abdominal and pelvic pain, after the other driver ran a red light and ploughed into her.
Ms Bazerji underwent surgery and required four screws in her finger to stabilise the fracture. She underwent regular hand therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and gym program treatment sessions to regain her strength.
“The accident was a great shock to me. It happened while trying to turn right that day. You can’t really know what it’s going to be like after an accident happens to you. You can’t just easily return to daily life,” Ms Bazerji said.
“About four weeks later I was driving again because my children needed me; but I would remember the loud noise, the shock and the pain, especially while driving through the same area. I’d be taken back to that moment and it was all too much.”
Ms Bazerji, who migrated from Syria in 2014, said she tried to continue as an Uber driver five months later but could not continue after suffering a psychological injury due to the accident. She found new work where she could better manage her injuries.
Ms Bazerji believes gig economy workers, who are considered independent contractors, should have access to the same benefits as workers who are considered employees.
“The days I didn’t drive because I was sick, I would have no money. My son is a ride share driver and we think it would be good for him to be an employee and to receive the insurance benefits automatically if he is in an accident,” she said.
“I had no access to workers’ compensation insurance because I am not considered an employee and it was disappointing. When I do lift something heavy in my new role, it’s painful so I try to avoid this.”
Ms Mackovic said while Ghalia was lucky enough to receive some benefits under the CTP scheme due to the serious nature of her injuries, not everyone was so lucky.
“Many drivers and riders don’t know when signing up that they will have very limited or no insurance rights or workplace health and safety rights, due to them not being considered an employee,” Ms Mackovic said.
“Because they are considered contractors, they are not automatically given paid time off work to recover from injury or illness either and they are not automatically paid superannuation by their employer.”
Media Contact Anna Chisholm (03) 9602 8683/ 0437 801 093