On-demand grocery startup Instacart announced on Monday that it plans to hire 300,000 workers in North America over the next three months. Demand for the company’s purchase-and-deliver services has shot up as states tighten restrictions on movement to control the spread of Covid-19, and Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said that he expects customer demand to continue rising.
If the hiring proceeds as planned, it will more than double Instacart’s current workforce. However, all the new hires, like the majority of the company’s existing workers, will be considered independent contractors, meaning that they do not receive employment protection and cannot access various medical and unemployment benefits under US law. The classification of gig economy workers and the lack of protections for them has long been a controversial topic, and the Covid-19 pandemic is further underscoring problems such as lack of legally protected paid and medical leave.
Mehta, however, suggested in his Monday statement that Instacart’s hiring spree will provide employment for the thousands of workers who have been retrenched in affected industries. “As more people look for immediate, flexible earnings opportunities during this time, we hope that Instacart can be an additional source of income for those looking to earn while also delivering for the communities in which they live,” he wrote.
Mehta also said that Instacart has stepped up measures to protect the health of its workers, including rolling out health and safety guidelines and providing cleaning supplies and protective equipment.
Instacart is not the only company in the retail, delivery, and logistics field to suddenly hire on a massive scale in the US. Walmart and Amazon have each recently announced that they plan to hire hundreds of thousands of workers, and also specifically stated they hope to provide jobs to retrenched workers from other industries.