Instacart’s move to offer employee-status to its existing contract workers reached a notable milestone today with the news that its in-store shoppers in New York City (NYC) can now apply for part-time roles with the company.
This means that contract workers in all 16 cities where Instacart is available can now apply for official roles at the company, with Instacart contributing to social security, Medicare, and other benefits typically not available to contractors. Newly expanded benefits will also include training and supervision.
Founded in 2012, Instacart is a grocery delivery startup that lets regular people buy and deliver groceries on behalf of other people. It’s one of many firms that make up the so-called “sharing economy,” but the “contractor vs. employee” debate has become a thorny issue for Instacart and other companies operating in the space.
Both Uber and Lyft have faced similar battles, with drivers arguing that they should be treated as employees and thus entitled to certain benefits. The California Labor Commission ruled in one driver’s favor back in June, though the overarching debate has yet to be resolved.
Instacart began trialing the initiative in Boston back in February, before officially announcing its plans in June, when Chicago was added to the mix. Since then, Instacart has opened up the program to other cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, and Miami. Today sees the San Francisco-based company close the loop on the rollout, with the company stating that its new setup will be the “standard approach” for in-store shoppers across all new launch markets.
“By making in-store shoppers employees, we’ve been able to train them and have more control over operations,” explains Apoorva Mehta, Instacart founder and CEO, in a press release. “This in turn has helped improve efficiency and order accuracy, and improved our customer satisfaction rates. We are getting great feedback from shoppers as well — those that are now employees report a new feeling of connectedness to Instacart, and those who chose to remain contractors were glad to still have that option.”
It’s worth noting here, however, that Instacart isn’t converting all contractors into employees — this move only applies to in-store shoppers. Those who take on the delivery facet of the service can’t yet apply for a part-time role. The company tells VentureBeat that it’s only offering the employee option to in-store shoppers because they are more likely to need “additional training and supervision.” In other words, picking ripe fruit, the best cuts of meat, or suitable alternatives is more complex than simply delivering them. Though the company has no immediate plans to open things up to other contractors, it says it is “possible” in the future.
Also, there is no obligation for in-store shoppers to apply for an employee role — it’s entirely optional.
Instacart says it has employed more than 1,000 part-time in-store shoppers across the U.S. since June. And, citing data from other cities, Instacart says it expects 75 percent of in-store shoppers to apply for part-time positions in New York. While part-time employees do choose their own hours and shifts, most end up working around 20 — 29 hours a week.
As part of the incentive to apply, Instacart also promises new employees “competitive wages that exceed the local minimum wage in each of its markets.”