Uber's Sensible Solution For Drivers Concerned About Coronavirus: Just Don't Work, Duh

Photo: Alastair Pike, Getty

As the coronavirus outbreak rages on, an increasing number of tech giants have begun adopting additional safety measures to minimise their employees’ exposure, such as restricting travel or cancelling prescheduled events. In that vein, Uber pushed out a memo to its global network of drivers Friday with some tips on how to stay healthy while contracting for the ridesharing app.

In a memo titled “A reminder about coronavirus,” the company echoes the same basic safety guidelines you’ve no doubt already heard from several public health officials at this point: Wash your hands frequently, go ham with the hand sanitizer, call your doctor if you start showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as significant respiratory problems or a high fever, cover your nose when you sneeze, etc. etc.

Uber based these health and safety tips on official Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, a company spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. “We remain in close contact with local public health organisations and will continue to follow their recommendations.”

“We are always working to help ensure the safety of our employees and everyone on the Uber platform, and we continue to be concerned by the ongoing spread of coronavirus,” the spokesperson continued.

Still, one gem of a suggestion that Uber offers rings so disingenuous, you almost want to laugh:

“If you feel sick, stay home.”

Don’t get me wrong, that’s legitimately great advice during an outbreak. Thing is, this is the gig economy we’re talking about, where if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. And now I’m not sure if Uber knows this, but money is often needed to exchange for goods and services.

Full-time and part-time employees can depend on safety nets such as sick days and paid time off during health crises, but Uber has a history of vehemently arguing that its drivers don’t count as employees; they’re independent contractors, no matter what the state of California says. That an important legal distinction that, in an ideal world, would mean Uber drivers and other members of the gig economy enjoy more workplace flexibility and autonomy at the cost of these labour protections. In actuality, it too often boils down to them juggling the workload of a full-time employee without any of the benefits, which can drastically cut costs for companies.

In short, this is all absolutely rich coming from Uber.

The memo, posted to social media and confirmed by an Uber spokesperson, came just hours after Business Insider published a report wherein several Uber drivers expressed their frustration at the company’s lack of official guidance on COVID-19 and how to help keep themselves, and their riders, safe.

You can read Uber’s memo in full below:

“Given ongoing global concern regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), we’d like to remind everyone to take the recommended steps to stay safe and healthy.

We are working closely with public health authorities to pass along the most up-to-date guidance on how to protect yourself and others. We encourage you to follow this guidance, such as:

  • If you feel sick, stay home. If you have mild illness, respiratory symptoms, or have a fever (38 C/100.4 F or above), stay home and away from others. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor.

  • Wash your hands frequently. Wash your hands with liquid soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to disinfect your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue within easy reach, cough or sneeze into your elbow.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your vehicle.

As has always been the case, if you feel uncomfortable picking up a passenger for safety reasons, you can choose not to accept or cancel the trip. However, it is absolutely against Uber’s Community Guidelines to discriminate against anyone based on their race or national origin.

For more information, please refer to the CDC website.

We will continue to monitor developments closely and will keep you updated.”

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