Female delivery workers on Swiggy can now avail a period leave of two days while still being paid the ‘minimum earnings guarantee’, the company announced in a recent blog post. Additionally, all delivery workers will be allowed to turn down orders in areas considered unsafe, without triggering any disincentives or questioning.
While the announcement is welcome, it also highlights how little flexibility gig workers are otherwise entitled to. The debate around categorising gig workers as employees is taking off in India, and the nature of the relationship between platforms and gig workers needs to be seen in that context.
What are the measures announced by Swiggy?
Here are some significant measures recently announced by Swiggy to encourage women to deliver with the company:
- Providing them with the option of renting electric bikes for deliveries
- A ‘no-questions-asked, two-day period time-off’ policy where workers will be paid the minimum earnings guarantee
- Providing access to hygienic washrooms by collaborating with restaurants and petrol stations
- Safety training and an SOS helpline
- Ability to turn down orders in unsafe areas with no disincentives and no questioning
What flexibility do gig workers in India currently have?
While Swiggy’s reforms are welcome, they also highlight the limited flexibility that gig workers are otherwise entitled to. The Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) brought this issue to light in a recent petition filed under the Supreme Court, demanding that the court declare gig workers as employees.
Platforms claim that gig work is characterised by flexibility, but they actually exert significant control over the working hours of gig workers, IFAT argued in the petition. Here are six ways in which platforms exert control over gig workers, according to IFAT’s petition:
- The compulsion of working/hailing rides for a minimum no. of hours in a day to remain active on the App;
- Following code of conduct set by the Aggregator companies;
- No freedom to refuse a ride/ pick up
- No freedom to communicate and/or contact a passenger save and except for the purpose of ride;
- Undergoing training sessions with the Aggregator companies; and
- Installing location tracking devices in vehicle that must necessarily be kept switched on all the time;
- Charges for rides and deliveries decided by the aggregators, over which the App-based drivers have no control over etc.
Listing these reasons, the petition argues that aggregators have significant control over the manner of work carried out by the workers, resembling a traditional employee-employer relationship.
MediaNama reached out to Swiggy for clarification regarding the degree of flexibility that gig workers on the platform have, but Swiggy chose not to respond.
Why are Indian gig workers asking for recognition of an employee-employer relationship?
Currently, gig workers not getting benefits under social security schemes for organised and unorganised workers. The petition’s main demand is to be recognised as unorganised workers under the Unorganised Workers Act 2008, which would entitle them to the following benefits:
- Life and disability cover
- Old age protection
- Provident fund
- Employment injury benefit
- Educational schemes for children
- Old age homes
Government might adhere to demands: The government is currently considering widening the ambit of ’employment’ to include gig and platform work. The reform is being considered under a new National Employment Policy, which would recategorise platform workers and anganwadi workers as employees.
- India’s Gig Workers May Be Conferred Employee Tag In Major Government Policy Shift: Report
- App Delivery Workers Missing Out On Social Security Benefits File Petition In Supreme Court
- Urban Company Cedes Some Ground To Workers Pushing For Better Pay And Working Conditions
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