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Ahead of its IPO, Postmates starts offering no-strings perks for couriers

Ahead of its IPO, Postmates starts offering no-strings perks for couriers
[Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash]

Salaried workers may not realize how much of their compensation comes from perks and benefits, rather than the paycheck. But contractors appreciate the difference, as they pay not just higher employment taxes but full freight for health, disability, liability, and other insurance.

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Gig companies like Uber have been sweetening the deal by offering some freebies or discounts on items like continuing education or insurance. Sometimes there are qualifiers, like having to work a certain number of assignments or maintain a certain customer rating. But delivery service Postmates is rolling out a new package of perks that any courier who signs up for the system can access—regardless of how much they work.

Expanding a pilot program that it began in San Francisco last September, Postmates is extending a job-search training and coaching package with Jewish Vocational Services to contractors in Los Angeles this month, with plans to reach Chicago, Miami, and New York City by the end of the year.

Why help its contractors find other work? Postmates makes no pretense that its 350,000 gig workers are making a living off the service: 93% of couriers work just 3-5 hours a week on the platform—as a source of extra income.

And couriers don’t have to work a minute to access that training, nor seven new online courses through provider edX, including cybersecurity and English for nonnative speakers. (Although couriers have to apply and be accepted to the pilot.) Uber also offers online classes, but only to Uber Pro drivers who meet requirements that include completing 3,000 rides, keeping at least a 4.85-star rating, and accepting at least 85% of ride offers. Postmates education freebies may not last, though. The company told me that it’s “testing” the offerings, and restrictions could come in the future.

(In June, meanwhile, Lyft added free English language training to a Driver Services package that it introduced in March.)

Postmates is also offering no-strings healthcare discounts from provider Stride Health that even the most infrequent courier can get. This goes beyond the streamlined Obamacare signup process it already offered to include new online physician consults and health insurance and prescription drug discounts. Postmates isn’t footing the bill for any of this, though, just negotiating deals for its couriers.

Finally, the company is adding occupational accident insurance for couriers while on delivery: from when they pick up food or drink to the moment they drop if off. Coverage includes up to $1 million for medical expenses and $500 per week for lost wages while injured.

This is becoming industry-standard. For instance, food delivery service Caviar (soon to be part of DoorDash) offers roughly the same benefits by the same provider, OneBeacon.

Postmates says the initiative for new benefits and perks—down to the selection of individual courses—came from input by its couriers. But with gig companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash frequent subjects of worker protests and media critiques, Postmates’ new offerings could also burnish its public image ahead of an IPO that, per TechCrunch, may come as soon as September.

Postmates told Fast Company only that it “can’t comment on the IPO process.”

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