Tough new safety laws for gig economy platforms and riders to be introduced in NSW

The NSW government is cracking down on making sure companies are protecting food delivery riders and riders are riding safely.

The New South Wales government said it will introduce a set of new laws that aim to better protect the safety of gig economy and food delivery workers, while also cracking down on unsafe practices by riders.

The state government outlined that these new measures include ensuring food delivery platforms provide riders with personal protective equipment and implement compulsory induction training, as well as introducing a new penalty system for non-compliant riders who are found to not be wearing safe, high-visibility clothing, breaking road rules when riding, or using vehicles that are not roadworthy.

These new changes will be implemented as part of amendments to the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.

"Improving safety on our roads is our number one priority. Everyone deserves to return home safely to their families at the end of the working day and these new laws will play a big role in ensuring that happens," Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said.

"The message is clear -- safety must always come first. You must abide by these new measures or you will be caught, you will be fined and you will be called out."

The changes are part of the 10 recommendations that the Joint Taskforce into Food Delivery Rider Safety put forward in its final report [PDF], which was released on Monday.

The report also recommended a number of operational changes be made, including enhanced reporting of incidents; increased compliance activity by SafeWork, Transport for NSW, and NSW Police; and issuing riders with a unique identification number.

Additionally, the report uncovered that based on observation work conducted by SafeWork NSW between 13 February to 13 March 2021, riders were frequently riding with inadequate high visibility clothing; riding on footpaths, across pedestrian crossings and light rail tracks, and on the left-hand side of buses and heavy vehicles; wearing hats under helmets; wearing unsafe footwear such as sandals; bikes were not fitted with required reflectors; and using hand-held mobile phones while riding.

The government will commence consultation on the new regulations in September and expects to finalise the changes by 1 November 2021.

The taskforce was set up at the end of last year to investigate whether improvements need to be made to enhance the safety of gig economy workers. It was prompted after a series of fatalities that involved food delivery riders occurred over a three-month period.

The move by the state government is in addition to consultation work the State Insurance Regulatory Authority undertook last month to identify what personal injury insurance options could be introduced by food delivery platforms, such as Uber Eats, Menulog, Doordash, HungryPanda, and Deliveroo, for its riders if they were injured or killed at work.

Menulog previously announced it would give its couriers access to insurance cover, fair pay, leave entitlements, and superannuation, as part of the company's plans to shift all its food couriers in Australia from working under a contractor model to an employment model.

In February, federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese vowed that the Labor party would legislate job security, pay, and entitlements for gig economy workers as part of its policy pitch that the party would take to the next election.

"It's time for a national approach. That's why a Labor government that I lead will consult with state and territory governments, unions, and industry, to develop, where it is practical, portable entitlements for annual leave, sick leave, and long service leave for Australians in insecure work," he said.

Labor's plan to take a national approach to protecting gig economy workers answers calls that were made by the Victorian government back in July when it handed down 20 recommendations as part of the state government's inquiry into the on-demand workforce.

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