Swiggy to give 2-day paid monthly period leave to female delivery partners

Swiggy Women Delivery Partner
In what is potentially a global first, food delivery firm Swiggy has introduced a two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all the regular female delivery partners. On opting to take this time-off, the delivery partner receives a minimum earnings guarantee.

Other initiatives include enabling access to vehicles, access to hygienic restrooms, implementing safety measures for female delivery partners. Mihir Shah, vice president for operations at Swiggy, said discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig.  

“To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners,” said Shah, in a company blog post. “This industry-first initiative gives our female DEs the option to voluntarily take time-off during their menstrual cycle and be eligible for a minimum earnings guarantee during that time.”

SoftBank-backed Swiggy has over 200,000 delivery partners out of which about 1,000 are women delivery partners. In 2016, Swiggy onboarded its first female delivery partner in Pune. “Since then we have been striving to build inclusivity and diversity across the platform with a commitment towards increasing the number of women delivery partners in Swiggy’s delivery fleet,” said Shah.

"It is an interesting move and we shall have to see if this is sufficient to motivate and attract women delivery partners. Am assuming the delivery partners would be compensated for their loss of commission too," said Rituparna Chakraborty- co-founder and EVP, TeamLease Services, the staffing firm.

Last year, rival company Zomato announced a period leave policy, allowing female employees to take up to 10 period leaves in a year.  These are available to employees and not the gig workforce. It has, however, taken steps to have a more inclusive gig workforce. In June this year, it said it has set a goal of reaching 10 per cent female delivery partners by the end of 2021 starting with Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune.

Zomato has about 300,000 delivery partners, of which about 5,000 are women, making it about 2 per cent of its delivery workforce, according to sources.  As part of its efforts to add more women delivery partners, Zomato undertook a four-pronged approach- increasing access to safety-related education and tools, contactless deliveries by default, especially for late deliveries, extended support from our restaurant partners, and SOS button and dedicated support for women partners.

In addition to its first-aid kits, all women delivery partners would be equipped with a handy hygiene and safety kit, Zomato had said in June.

To bring about necessary changes, Swiggy’s Shah said the company is ensuring to stay cognizant of the challenges the women delivery partners face, especially with respect to access and safety. “Creating an environment that encourages women to consider delivering with Swiggy is a priority,” said Shah.

One such initiative by Swiggy is access to vehicles. Several women who are interested in onboarding with Swiggy either lack access to personal motor vehicles, or don’t have a driver’s license at all. Swiggy is addressing this issue in two ways. First, assuring them that delivery by bicycle is a viable option for short-distance orders. In fact, 22 per cent of the women delivery partners deliver on bicycles. Second, it also working with electric mobility partners to facilitate EV cycles and bikes (sub 25 kmph) on rent.

Another initiative is access to hygienic restrooms. Swiggy’s partners, both men, and women spend a considerable time on the move and often don’t have easy access to clean and safe public restrooms. Shah said Swiggy has worked with restaurant partners in Cochin and are expanding this to other large cities to address this need gap. More recently, the firm has also partnered with Shell to provide our delivery partners access to restrooms across all their petrol stations in the country.

Swiggy said the safety of delivery partners is of utmost importance to it. Measures like ‘safe zones’ and capping delivery hours at 6 PM for female delivery partners were implemented. However, the firm realized that this move limited true inclusivity, while also restricting female partners from delivering during one of the most lucrative slots – the dinner peak.

“We’re changing that by bettering our security processes,” said Shah. “Starting with Bengaluru where we have the highest number of women delivery partners, we’re opening up dinner slot deliveries. It will be extended to other cities after we complete training our partners there.”

Some of the measures Swiggy has in place include robust virtual safety training modules that cover situational training. This includes Swiggy SOS-emergency support usage guidelines and important safety dos and don’ts. Both female and male delivery partners have the option to decline deliveries if they deem an area to be unsafe – no questions, no disincentives.  An SOS service is available on the Delivery Partner App that instantly connects one to a Swiggy helpline, local police, or an ambulance in the case of a medical emergency.

A large number of women delivery partners are already benefiting from the above changes. An NPS survey done at the end of September highlighted a 23-point jump in satisfaction among the women delivery partners from six weeks ago. In the same period,  the number of women delivery partners in Bengaluru has doubled with other cities also seeing a small growth.

“Swiggy understands the pain of a woman in the field and period leave will definitely motivate more women to choose this platform and be independent,” said  Komal, a delivery partner from Chennai. “I am happy to be working with a company that keeps women empowerment in mind.”

Another Chandana R K from  Bengaluru said opening up dinner time deliveries is a good opportunity for those who want to earn more and have the time to do deliveries in the evening.  “Of course, safety is very important and so I’m happy that Swiggy is prioritising that and training us,” said Chandana. “We can reject orders if we are not comfortable delivering in a particular location. This will help us significantly increase our earnings and support our financial goals while not compromising on safety.”

The ‘gig’ economy has grown significantly in the past decade with the advent of technology platforms like Ola, Uber, Swiggy, Dunzo, UrbanCompany among others. With the emergence of technology-enabled gig work platforms, over 200 million people are considered part of the gig workforce globally, according to a report by consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

India’s gig economy is set to triple over the next 3-4 years to 24 million jobs in the non-firm sector from the existing 8 million, according to the report.

The report estimates that the gig economy has the potential to service up to 90 million jobs in India’s non-farm economy alone, transact over $ 250 billion in the volume of work, and contribute an incremental 1.25 per cent (approximately) to India's GDP (gross domestic product) over the long term.

Among the benefits of the gig economy, the report talks about expanding labor participation especially for women and students who may only be available for part-time work to supplement household income.

These findings point to the immense potential for gig work to create greater livelihood opportunities for lower-income workers, while creating a more inclusive workforce. “They also suggest greater involvement of youth, students, and women in gig work, compared to traditional work arrangements,” said the report. 


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