Instacart will give its shoppers — the workers who pick and fill grocery store orders for customers — a $25 stipend for the time they take off to get a coronavirus vaccine, the company announced Thursday.
Beginning February 1st, any full-service Instacart shopper in North America who has shopped at least five batches — which can include one or more customer orders — in the past 30 days and can also verify they have received a vaccine will be eligible. Shift leads and in-store shoppers who are actively employed when they receive the vaccine will be eligible as well.
The company says the $25 is intended to provide shoppers with financial assistance as they take time away from shopping. Full-service shoppers are independent contractors who both pick and deliver groceries, while in-store shoppers are part-time Instacart employees who do in-store shopping only.
Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a statement the company is taking “proactive steps to advocate that government agencies recognize Instacart shoppers as critical essential workers who deserve early access to vaccines.” It’s joined by other gig economy companies like Uber, DoorDash, and Lyft that have lobbied for their independent contractors to receive priority vaccine access.
Instacart, which does not provide medical benefits for its independent contractor shoppers, has unveiled several initiatives to demonstrate it is attempting to protect its workers from becoming infected with COVID-19, but with mixed results. Under an agreement with the attorney general for Washington, DC in June, the company expanded its sick pay benefit to anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 by a health care provider, even without a positive test, and provided a telemedicine option through Doctor on Demand.
Instacart also said it would provide sick pay to shoppers who live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. However, shoppers have reported that the application process to receive sick pay has been difficult to navigate and the benefit was not always approved.
In March 2020, the company announced its plan to distribute health and safety kits to its shoppers, which include a washable face mask and hand sanitizer. It says it’s delivered more than 620,000 of the kits to shoppers via its app and website, but again, shoppers have described a complicated process for receiving the kits. The kits were announced just as a group of Instacart shoppers staged a strike to push the company for better protective gear.
In June, Instacart announced it was changing the way it handled customer tips, after the announcement of a congressional inquiry into the practice of tip-baiting. That’s when a customer rescinds or reduces a shopper’s tips after their order has been shopped and delivered.