Amazon is offering its employees thousands of pounds in funding to set up independent delivery businesses.
The company has said it will offer fulfilment centre employees a grant equivalent to three months’ salary. This is around £5,000 for a full-time worker on Amazon’s £9.50 per hour wage outside London.
Delivery and worker status
The offer has also been put forward to its US employees, who can apply for up to $10,000 in start-up costs if they are accepted into the programme and leave their jobs, as well as three months’ pay.
Most part-time and full-time Amazon employees will be eligible, including warehouse workers who pack and ship orders, the company said.
The aim is to boost the company’s delivery capacity to keep up with growing demand, and employees will receive training as well as funds.
Amazon said it would take an “active role” in helping employees launch their own package delivery businesses.
It said: “An employee will leave their role at Amazon to build their business knowing they will have consistent delivery volume from Amazon, access to the company’s sophisticated delivery technology, hands-on training, and discounts on a suite of assets and services, including Amazon-branded vans customised for delivery, branded uniforms and comprehensive insurance.”
It’s hoped the company can further reduce delivery times for its Prime service, which generally ships packages with 24 hours of being ordered.
Doug Gurr, Amazon’s UK country leader, said: “We are excited to launch an initiative to help make the dreams of employees who have always wanted to run their own business come true. Customer demand is higher than ever and we have a need to build more delivery capacity.”
The company – which has come under fire from unions over conditions in its fulfilment centres – recently introduced a number of benefits for employees, including a career guidance programme offering up to £8,000 in skills training.
Last year, however, the GMB union announced it would take legal action against three Amazon delivery firms over their classification of drivers as self-employed, arguing that Amazon controlled their shift patterns and that the workers were treated like employees in terms of hours, so should therefore be granted the same rights as permanent colleagues.
Carl Reader, chairman of business advisory firm d&t, said any potential legal issues would come down to the nature of these roles.
He said: “It comes down to the level of autonomy that they have, whether the individuals share in risk and reward of running a business, rights of substitution and mutuality of obligation. It’s a nuanced minefield with no definitive answer. The likelihood is that it will only ever be determined by a legal case.”