The service industry has always come with many hidden dangers. They’re lurking in chipped glasses and on wet floors. They can strike quickly like a grease fire, or creep slowly up the back of a seasoned waitress. However, the service industry as a whole doesn’t have a history of providing strong protections for its workers. The gig economy has a similar reputation. With the absence of traditional employee benefits like workers’ compensation, it’s important that equitable replacements are created for gig workers in any sector, particularly those that come with a high risk of injury. As on-demand platforms usher the service industry into the future of work, it’s up to them to make sure that the whole is safer than the sum of its parts.
Qwick is setting an example of how on-demand platforms can do just that. Qwick was created to provide on-demand workers to the hospitality sector, with a more efficient, transparent, and affordable model than that of traditional staffing industries. Qwick has leveraged cutting edge technology with the goal of “removing the agency spin and putting the power back in the hands of businesses.” To Qwick, that also meant making sure those businesses were protected.
Workplace injury presents a unique challenge when independent contractors are involved. Because providing traditional insurance like workers compensation can compromise their 1099 classification, many are left unprotected. This is dangerous not only for the workers, who likely couldn’t independently afford their medical bills, but for the enterprises as well, as they may be implicated in litigation with the injured worker. These lawsuits are complicated, because the accidents aren’t really anyone’s fault, they’re just that - accidents. “Our workers handle knives, heavy trays, and operate on slippery surfaces,” says Ian Prendergast, Director of Business Development at Qwick. “Unfortunately, it is not a matter of if an accident will happen but when.” Consider these four examples from Qwick’s most popular industries:
A server is carrying a tray of piping hot plates to a table of four. He makes his way through the dining room in careful strides, tray held high. Suddenly a child violently shoves their chair away from the table, and sprints for the bathroom. The chair knocks the server and he begins to go down, he keeps his arm outstretched attempting to salvage the fragile porcelain - and maybe even a steak or two - but the tray lands on his wrist and he ends up with a pretty severe sprain requiring an Xray and a cast.
A hotel worker was emptying the kitchen waste bin in a luxury suite. It was a bit overfull, so she pushed a gloved hand into the bag to compress it enough to tie the bag. As she reached her hand in she felt a sharp pain on her forearm. A broken bottle had left a gash across her arm that would require stitches. Without health insurance, even this simple procedure would likely be out of her price range.
A Cater Waiter walks down a row of shiny metal pans holding the most delicious smelling lasagna. He lights the little candle under each with a long kitchen lighter. Unbeknownst to him, there’s a bit of leftover grease on the bottom of one of the pans, and it catches immediately. The burst of flame dies quickly, but not before leaving second degree burns on a few of his fingers. Not only does his injury require costly medical care, but it will also prevent him from working for the next few weeks.
An on-demand caddy passes a driver to the grandson of a wealthy country club member. The teenager takes his shot, and lightheartedly swings the club across his shoulders as he watches it fly. When the ball lands, he turns abruptly to see his grandfather’s reaction, smacking the caddy in the back of the head. The caddy sustains a concussion from the blow, and won’t be able to work for the next couple of weeks while he recovers.
The high level of risk in the hospitality sector has lead many enterprises to require that their independent workforce is insured. However, they can’t legally provide the coverage themselves. One solution that has emerged to bridge this gap is Occupational Accident Insurance (OAI). OAI is an equitable replacement with the flexibility and affordability to adapt to the contingent workforce. Though it has been the standard in the trucking industry for years, Bunker’s unique OAI product has made it available to gig workers on an hourly basis. The coverage not only protects enterprises from lawsuits, but also provides a safety net for workers who would otherwise be left to deal with crippling medical bills and lost wages alone. Early adopters of Bunker’s OAI, Qwick began providing the coverage “to make sure [their] workers were taken care of as well as the businesses using them.” Prendergast noted that OAI has been an important ingredient in business partnerships with larger enterprises in the hospitality sector, as it “mitigates the risk of not only working as an independent contractor, but also contracting with them.”
The Future of Work
The Service Industry presents a rosy lense of what the future of work could look like. Both hospitality sector employees, and gig workers in any industry, are plagued by insecurity. Qwick has shown that by bringing the two together, the future of work could be a safer place for both. “As a whole, most W2 employees do not receive benefits in the hospitality sector,” said Prendergast. “We are excited to be able to offer independent contractors more coverage than many get as a W2 employee.”
Extending the social safety net to Independent contractors is about a sense of security as much as the financial pay out if an accident should occur. “OAI provides peace of mind,” said Prendergast. “By 2024, over half of the US labor force is projected to be apart of the gig economy. If this trend continues, we need to find a way to cover workers in the same - or better - ways that W2 employees are covered today. The gig economy is the way of future. People want freedom and flexibility over their time and rightfully so. We feel that it is important to take care of these people in the same way that "employees" are taken care of today. Providing OAI for contractors not only gives the worker peace of mind, but also the business benefiting from their labor.”
Qwick is changing the way people work by connecting food and beverage professionals who want on-demand work with businesses who need them. Qwick offers their team members flexibility, control over their schedules, and the ability to choose who they want to work for. Businesses benefit by being able to fill shifts in real-time with a qualified and vetted workforce, at a fraction of the cost of traditional staffing agencies.