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Delivery companies issue warning on workplace laws

Food delivery companies have warned that new workplace laws could lead to fewer opportunities for workers on their platforms.

A Senate inquiry examining the workplace changes heard users of apps such as Menulog, Uber Eats or DoorDash could be slugged with higher delivery costs as a result of employment changes for drivers.

Under the proposed laws, gig economy workers would be offered greater protections, while casual workers would be able to more easily move into permanent work.

General manager of DoorDash Rebecca Burrows said the laws would lead to negative impacts for workers using the platform.

"It places (DoorDash workers) on the path to being employees in everything but name, introduces considerable ambiguity for platforms and workers, and increases costs for consumers during a cost of living crisis," she said.

"We estimate that should the bill apply an employment framework, the average delivery costs for Australian families could rise between 210 and 260 per cent."

The DoorDash app on a mobile phone
Doordash claims the new laws would increase delivery costs for consumers by up to 260 per cent.

Menulog's managing director Morten Belling said it was crucial for the laws to clearly lay out what counted as direct employment and employee-like conditions for workers.

"This is also crucial to ensure that legal certainty is being met and a level playing field for all industry participants," he said.

"We recommend narrowing the scope of the Fair Work Commission and adding further guardrails that will provide greater certainty for the industry."

General manager of rides at Uber Australia Dominic Taylor said a definitive list of areas the Fair Work Commission could rule on would lead to greater certainty for gig economy platforms.

Mr Taylor said if the flexibility element for workers on the platform was removed, many would leave the service.

He urged the government to change the definition of gig economy work so that it did not include time spent online by workers before a job was accepted.

"If we were forced to pay for time that someone's online and not engaged on a trip ... what we'll need to move towards is shift work," he said.

"If I were to be paid for that time between coming online and starting my first trip, not only would I be paid for work I'm not accepting, but I'd also be double dipping across multiple platforms."

Earlier, the inquiry heard from multiple gig economy workers, who said they often had no workplace protection when they were making deliveries.

Some told the inquiry of having to work more than 60 hours a week in order to make ends meet.

Gig economy worker Abdollah Askari said a minimum wage for those in the industry was urgently needed.

"(Platforms) change the pay on their own, and I don't have any say in it, there is no law protecting my wage," he said.

"It's pretty much doable for all the platforms that they should have some minimum wage going on if they want to work in the Australian market."

A file photo of Michele O'Neil
ACTU president Michele O'Neil wants the workplace laws passed as soon as possible.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil urged MPs to pass the whole bill as soon as possible to better protect employees, including an estimated 250,000 gig economy workers.

"Workers in insecure work earn less, have less access to training or career progression. They're skipping meals and rent and mortgage payments," she told the inquiry.

Chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Andrew McKellar said the changes would be onerous for small businesses.

"Our concern here is that the impact of the bill is making it much more difficult for employers, for businesses to make the choice to employ people in a matter in which they would wish," he said.

The bill would have a detrimental impact on compliance and the penalties for failing to comply because "these onerous requirements will be considerably higher".

The Senate inquiry is due to hand down its report in early 2024.