By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Uber's [UBER.UL] food-delivery business will begin offering an insurance package to its couriers in Europe, a move to address the conditions of "gig economy" workers.
Riders for food-delivery companies such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo are typically self-employed and the firms have come under fire for how they treat their workers.
Uber Eats said on Friday it would start offering all its couriers in Europe an insurance package with AXA with coverage for personal accidents, cash benefits for hospitalization, property damage and cover for third-party injury.
"Uber Eats couriers can now enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working on their own schedule with the peace of mind provided by additional security and protection," said Filip Nuytemans, Uber Eats general manager for Europe.
The couriers will be able to benefit from the policy whether they are fully independent or employed via a third party, and the company will pay for the insurance.
Uber Eats currently operates in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Britain. The plan will be introduced Jan. 8 next year, the company said.
The gig economy, where individuals work for multiple employers day-to-day without having a fixed contract, has expanded with the arrival of apps such as Uber and Deliveroo, who say their workers have the full flexibility to work when they want and for how long they want.
But companies in the gig economy come under fire from unions and politicians for what they call exploitative practices and riders for Deliveroo have gone to court in the UK to seek employment rights such as the minimum wage.
Two drivers for Uber's ride-hailing app successfully argued at a tribunal in London that the San Francisco company had responsibilities in terms of workers' rights.
The plan offered by Uber Eats will reimburse couriers up to 7,500 euros ($8,847.75) for medical expenses from an accident that results in hospitalization or 3,000 euros if the hospitalization is for three consecutive nights or more.
Couriers will also get a cash benefit for severe sickness or injury and cover for third party bodily injuries and property damage.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)