Instacart Improves Safety Measures for Shoppers

updated Apr 3, 2020
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Credit: Danielle Centoni

Last week, Instacart shoppers — the gig workers who pick up groceries at the store and deliver them to customers’ doorsteps — organized a strike to demand certain safety measures and benefits in line with how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their roles. Their demands included free health and safety supplies, a little more money per shop, and paid sick leave that didn’t hinge on being able to obtain a COVID-19 test — a near impossible task in most states.

On Thursday, the company announced new measures that they will be taking, including the distribution of health and safety kits for shoppers, which will include face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers. The masks are not surgical masks or respirators, like the N95 masks that are so in-demand at hospitals, but a washable and reusable cloth multi-use mask. The shoppers will be able to order the kits, for free, starting next week. While that is the only worker request that they seem to have responded to directly, they have also presented a number of new policies and tools to help the safety of workers.

Most of the benefits are for the in-store shoppers, who are more like full-time employees, but the gig workers who were demanding more have a few new tools, including changes to the in-app tip system that it make it much less likely that they get stiffed on tips. It’s not a raise or hazard pay, but does serve to help get the shoppers more money. Additionally, they are given more opportunities for bonuses and incentives, though not the $5 per order they requested.

Though the in-store shoppers, even as part-time employees, will now all have sick pay as an accrued benefit, the gig workers still need to be diagnosed with COVID-19 or “placed in individual mandatory isolation or quarantine, as directed by a local, state, or public health authority” in order to access the 14 days of pay.

As the crisis unfolds, the public has gotten a unique view on who the essential workers are in this world, and those workers, who long struggled for fair treatment, have seized the opportunity to take action. These changes show that while the improvements may be incremental, they are happening.