Delivery man’s family win big payout after he was killed in historic decision for gig economy

The struggling family of a food delivery driver hit by a bus in Sydney will receive huge compensation in a ruling that could have major implications for Australia’s booming economy.

More than $830,000 in worker death benefits will go to the widow and children of HungryPanda worker Xiaojun Chen.

The workers’ compensation insurer ruled that Mr. Chen, 43, was an employee of the department, rather than a contractor, at the time of his death.

Mr. Chen left behind a wife, two children and a 75-year-old father in China. The family depended on Mr. Chen’s income to live and waited for him to return home to start a family business.

Under the NSW workers’ compensation scheme, the family will receive the lump sum payment, along with weekly payments of up to $149 for each of their two children until they are both 16.

The decision could pave the way for future workers’ compensation claims in the same vein and give unions a boost to give thousands of food courier workers greater protection and guaranteed work standards.

Delivery people are generally not eligible for compensation as they are technically sub-contractors rather than employees of delivery companies.

Mr Chen was hit by a bus at work (pictured right with his wife, left and son, middle) as his family waited in China to start a family business with the money he earned in Australia

So far, no other delivery families have received New South Wales Workers' Compensation following a workplace fatality (pictured, a Hungry Panda worker in Melbourne)

So far, no other delivery families have received New South Wales Workers’ Compensation following a workplace fatality (pictured, a Hungry Panda worker in Melbourne)

In a statement, Mr. Chen’s widow, Lihong Wei, said her husband’s death was completely heartbreaking and was a blow to the family.

“My children miss their dad every day. My daughter started having difficulties with school and my son lost his father forever at only eight years old. My stepfather lost his only son. Nothing can ever fix that.

The widow, her stepfather and her children were waiting for Mr Chen to earn enough money to return home to China before he was fatally hit by the bus in Sydney’s southern suburb of Zetland in 2020.

Delivery people are generally not eligible for employee rights because they are subcontractors of the services they work for rather than employees (pictured, a Deliveroo runner)

Delivery people are generally not eligible for employee rights because they are subcontractors of the services they work for rather than employees (pictured, a Deliveroo runner)

“Now that dream will never come true. The grief that my children, their grandparents and I feel cannot be expressed in words,” Ms. Wei said.

The historic decision, however, will bring some comfort to the family. Ms Wei hopes it will help other runners in the Australian service sector by bringing “respect and recognition to all food delivery workers for the essential service they provide”.

Gig workers — including food delivery people and ride-hailing service drivers — are unpaid or on fixed-term contracts and mostly work flexibly, getting paid for every job they do.

There is no standard industry minimum wage, worker’s compensation guarantee, or wrongful dismissal protection for couriers at food delivery companies.

Mr. Chen's family hopes that the iCare insurance agent's agreement that Mr. Chen was

Mr. Chen’s family hopes insurance agent iCare’s agreement that Mr. Chen was “employed” by HungryPanda at the time of his death will pave the way for more benefits for employees in the US economy. concerts (photo, a Doordash worker)

Food delivery people also don’t get paid sick days or automatic super contributions, because they’re not classified as employees.

However, the compensation decision pursued by Slater and Gordon could lead to changes in the status of delivery workers in the future.

Slater and Gordon practice group leader Jasmina Mackovic said the decision by iCare’s workers’ compensation agent, Employers Mutual Limited, was “groundbreaking”.

“To our knowledge, this is the first case where it has been accepted that a driver in the gig economy has been considered a worker,” Ms Mackovic said.

“Gig economy workers and their families are generally denied any rights because they are considered independent contractors rather than employees.

“It also means that workers or their families are not guaranteed for lost wages, medical payments or a lump sum for any impairments suffered if they are injured or sick, or even in the event of death as has happened. produced here.”

Mr Chen’s death in 2020, along with those of four other delivery drivers over a three-month period, saw the Labor Party – then in opposition – vow to legislate more protections for construction workers.

Now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also promised to increase protections for gig workers during the federal election campaign.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the compensation will not cure the family but will go a long way to “righting a horrible wrong” and strengthening industrial relations legislation for courier workers.

“The Albanian government is committed to action and must act urgently to lift standards and protect workers. Empowering an independent body to set standards applicable to all workers, regardless of label, will strike at the heart of the exploitation that makes food delivery so deadly,” he said.

Daily Mail Australia does not suggest that HungryPanda is in any way responsible for Mr Chen’s death.