UK “gig economy” worker’s death tied to no sick pay, no sick leave
17 February 2018
The tragic death of 53-year-old courier, Don Lane, underlines the terrible conditions workers face in the so-called “gig economy.”
Lane, from Christchurch on the south coast of England, had worked for parcel giant Dynamic Parcel Distribution (DPD) for 19 years, and suffered from diabetes. While a manageable disease, diabetes requires stringent medical supervision and regular check-ups. However, constant pressure of work and no sick pay, led to Lane missing vital hospital appointments.
Classed as self-employed, workers at companies like DPD have no employment rights like holiday or sick pay, maternity leave, redundancy pay or contractual hours. They work on zero hours contracts—at the beck and call of employers—and are paid for each delivery/job done. Time off at DPD incurs a daily fine of £150, unless a substitute driver can be found, plus loss of earnings.
Lane’s widow Ruth, who works in the food hall at retailer Marks and Spencer, told the Guardian, “There was a constant threat of a fine. They had to deliver the parcels to tight slots and the pressure to get them done was huge. He was putting the company before his own health. He wasn’t able to do his parcels first and make the hospital appointments, so he would cancel on the day.
“He collapsed in January 2017 and they [DPD] knew that because they collected his van. It was after that Don cancelled three appointments. DPD had a duty of care to make sure he got to those appointments, but they failed in it.” In March, fearful about his health, Don told her, “I think I am going to die.”
As well as the workload being forced on him being a great danger to himself, the public was also endangered…