Uber, Lyft will compensate drivers affected by coronavirus outbreak

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting many workers, but it could hit those in the gig economy particularly hard when many of them don't get sick leave or other benefits. Those companies may help soften the blow for some of their workers, though. To start, Uber said in a statement to Engadget that it would compensate drivers worldwide for both Uber and Uber Eats if they're either infected by the coronavirus or quarantined by a public health agency for "a period of up to 14 days." Drivers have already received compensation in "some markets," Uber said, alluding to a Bloomberg report that it had compensated quarantined drivers in Mexico and the UK.

A Lyft spokesperson also told Engadget that it had "decided to provide funds to drivers infected or quarantined by a public health authority."

There may be broader industry plans afoot, however. Wall Street Journal sources say Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates are among those discussing a fund to compensate drivers affected by the virus. The details of how it would work aren't clear, but the group is reportedly poised to make a decision in the "coming days."

While this could be good news for drivers worried that they might get sick, the payouts won't fully address concerns about pay. Ridesharing drivers and couriers typically don't make much money from their work, making them particularly sensitive to even brief interruptions -- compensating them after the fact could still lead to financial hardship. They may be tempted to keep working even when they show symptoms of a possible infection. And of course, compensation for infections won't offset lost business from declines in tourism and other customers staying home due to coronavirus concerns.