Instacart will expand its COVID-19 sick pay to include more gig workers as part of an agreement with the attorney general for Washington, DC. Under the agreement, the company is also launching a telemedicine pilot in the DC area to remotely diagnose shoppers who believe they may have contracted the disease, and provide childcare assistance pay to eligible workers while schools are closed.
In March, Instacart announced that employees who were quarantined or tested positive for COVID-19 would receive 14 days of sick pay, meant to encourage them to stay home rather than spreading the disease further. But getting that pay has proven difficult for shoppers who have often been blocked from the benefit either by the unavailability of tests or confusion around which agencies are authorized to recommend quarantine.
In May, a Verge investigation found that Instacart’s sick pay was difficult to access in practice, with little clear logic as to when claims were granted or denied. Out of eight shoppers who spoke to us, only three successfully received the benefit, often because of unique efforts on their part.
Under the new policy, anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 by their health care provider would be eligible for sick pay — even if they have not received a positive test. Instacart will also allow shoppers to actively seek a diagnosis through a new telemedicine system, administered through Doctor on Demand. Instacart also pledged to provide sick pay to shoppers who live in the same residence as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, seeing them as particularly at risk of contracting the disease.
The new policy will still require documentation — whether of a quarantine order or a positive diagnosis — and the agreement does not contain any provisions for improving how the company processes those requests. Still, DC Attorney General Ken Racine said the new measures were vital to preventing further spread of the ongoing pandemic.
“We thank Instacart for doing the right thing,” said Racine. “During this pandemic, grocery delivery workers are risking their health to connect District residents to essential goods. Instacart’s new policy will ensure that workers who are sick can stay home and seek care, and it helps protect their colleagues, consumers, and the public during this crisis.”
While the agreement was obtained through legal channels, there’s been no allegation that Instacart acted illegally, and the agreement does not contain any admission of wrongdoing.
Instacart president Nilam Ganenthiran put the agreement in sunnier terms. “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our team has been singularly focused on supporting the health and safety of our shopper community,” he said in a statement. “We’re proud to partner with Attorney General Racine to expand our offerings and continue supporting our valued shopper community.”