The delivery firm DPD hit the headlines this week – for the wrong reasons.
One of the firm’s drivers died from diabetes-related causes. According to his wife, he’d started missing hospital appointments because the company fines you £150 for not working, if you can’t find someone to drive on your behalf. As a franchisee, the onus is on the driver to find his or her replacement if that person needs to take time off for medical reasons.
Don Lane worked through the busy Christmas period, despite feeling ill. He collapsed in late December and died on 4 January.
Mr Lane’s story was widely reported. An article in the Independent said Mr Lane had worked for 20 years for the company at its Bournemouth depot. His widow Ruth told the Guardian that he’d missed appointments because he was worried about being fined, having previously been fined for taking time off for an appointment in July when he visited a specialist about the damage to his eyes caused by diabetes.
Labour MP Frank Field, the chair of the Commons Work and Pension Select Committee, said the loss of life represented a new low for the gig economy. In a statement, DPD emphasised that Mr Lane was “self-employed”, and said it was “devastated” by Mr Lane’s death, but that self-employed couriers are contracted to provide a service, and they can provide a substitute if they can’t carry out the job.
They added that they were wrong to charge him for attending his appointment in July.
Horrifying, isn’t it? If you feel strongly about this, and would like to do something about it, you can choose not to use DPD for parcel delivers where possible. This might mean changing your shopping habits or asking companies you regularly buy goods from which courier firms they use. You can also make your feelings known via social media – @DPD_UK on Twitter.