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A NSW lawyer is calling on food delivery companies, the State and Federal Governments to provide greater protections for delivery riders to ensure they receive workers’ compensation entitlements in case of injury or death.

Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Jasmina Mackovic is representing Lihong Wei, the widow of Hungry Panda delivery rider Xiaojun Chen, who was killed after being hit by a bus while delivering food on 29 September. Ms Mackovic has lodged a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits and said the delivery workers should be considered employees instead of independent contractors under the NSW Workers’ Compensation Act and under federal law.

“At the moment there are too many loopholes in state and federal laws that allow gig economy companies to avoid their responsibilities to adequately protect the people who work for them,” she said.

“We are only going to see more workers die and be injured on our roads with limited rights to compensation unfortunately, if something doesn’t change.

“Governments need to ensure these companies meet their responsibilities. Consumers should start paying attention to how their food is delivered to them and avoid using those companies who fail to meet their responsibilities to their workforce.”

Lihong Wei said she felt as though a big part of her life was gone and could not understand why workers like her husband were not entitled to proper protections such as compensation for the family of a worker after a fatal road accident.

“He was the love of my life and a great father to the children. He was the centre of the family. It’s a big loss. It’s more than devastating. This has destroyed all the wonderful things in life for us,” Ms Wei said.

“I just want to see change so I can help other families going through this loss and tragedy.”

Ms Mackovic said many riders were unaware when they signed up to ride share and food delivery apps, that they would have very limited or no insurance rights and workplace health and safety rights, due to them not being considered employees.

“Because they are considered contractors, they are not automatically given paid time off work to recover from injury or illness. Some have to work through an injury or illness,” she said.

“Many work across multiple platforms and may have taken up this kind of work due to losing work in the construction industry for example, throughout COVID. Some are studying and initially take up the work because the flexible hours are appealing. But really they must take the work and hours when the demand is there.

“These workers are quite vulnerable unless safety nets are there for them.”