food delivery generic
Food delivery workers on duty. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: Saudi food delivery workers are now covered by COVID-19 relief packages, according to a royal decree issued by king Salman Bin Abdulaziz, local media reported.

Under the decree, these workers, initially excluded from the coronavirus relief packages, will get the benefits retroactively along with September’s payment.

Food delivery drivers and riders often work for less than the minimum wage, and have less employee rights. Most food delivery work is done by migrants, through third-party digital platforms, which treat them as independent contractors, not employees with the protections and rights of employees.

In July, a royal decree was issued extending a number of government financial initiatives designed to support the private sector, Saudi workers, individuals and investors to help them to cope with the negative impact of the coronavirus disease.

The financial initiatives included supporting Saudi citizens working in the private sector and suspending the collection of fines and financial penalties. Other initiatives included postponing payment of value-added tax (VAT), accelerating VAT reimbursement, and postponing the collection of customs duties on imports for 30 days.

All affected companies can apply to the General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI), a semi-government body responsible for implementing the provisions of the social insurance law in Saudi Arabia, for compensation for wages under the SANED scheme. SANED is an insurance programme designed to support Saudi workers and their families financially during a period of unemployment for reasons beyond their control.

The scheme is intended to bridge the transitional gap between previous jobs and the opportunity to obtain a new role, by providing a minimum income to workers and their families. It covers 70 per cent of Saudi workers in the most affected companies, and a maximum of 50 per cent of those in the least affected companies, to be determined by the relevant committee.

The government allocated SR9 billion ($2.4 billion) at the outbreak of the pandemic to support the initiative, covering up to 60 per cent of the wage of an employee up to a maximum of SR9,000 per month.

It has been reported that more than 90,000 businesses and 480,000 people have benefited from the SANED scheme during the past three months until July, with SR3.5 billion distributed.