Customer Polly Mackenzie heard her cleaner was ill and unable to work her normal day, and was hoping to reschedule to another date.
Polly Mackenzie, from south London, was sent what she described to the BBC as “a grovelling email – as if they’d killed my firstborn”, then found her account had been credited with £5 to compensate for the inconvenience.
She said that meant Handy had “profited £20 from her illness, about twice as much as they’d make if she turned up”.
The cleaner has since been made available to Ms Mackenzie once more, but the incident has ignited a debate on social media about the use of app-based services and the gig economy.
Proponents of the gig economy claim that people can benefit from flexible hours, with control over how much time they can work as they juggle other commitments. Those against say its simply another form of employment – without rights or in-work benefits.
It is not unheard of for gig economy workers to be charged for days they do not work.
In the gig economy, instead of a regular wage guaranteed to those counted as ’employees’, workers get paid per job, i.e one car journey with Uber or one food delivery with Deliveroo.
The situation with Uber which has long since dominated the headlines, with the latest news this week revealing that a tribunal ruled that Uber should give drivers the same rights as workers, rather than treat them as self-employed.
A similar situation came to light with Pimlico plumbers in February this year when an ex-employee of the company won a legal battle for working rights after his appeal to to reduce his working days from five days to three following a heart attack in 2010 was rejected by the company. The employee had worked for the company for six years.
Ms Mackenzie says she is effectively an employer who is not allowed say on the rights of ‘her employee’.
However, the cleaner at the centre of the debate is no longer willing to work for Ms Mackenzie.
New York-based Handy has been contacted by the BBC for a response.