97% of payments for cash advance programme on schedule, says Grab; labour MP Zainal Sapari urges caution

Grab's Upfront Cash programme lets selected workers instantly get hold of part of their projected future earnings. Grab said these are not loans. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Most of the payments disbursed under Grab's cash advance programme have been returned in a timely manner, the company said on Thursday (Nov 28).

Those who took the advance but later decide to stop working for Grab can also arrange to repay the sum via ways other than through the Grab app, it added.

Grab was responding to a Facebook post made by labour MP Zainal Sapari on Tuesday about its Upfront Cash programme.

The scheme lets selected workers instantly get hold of part of their projected future earnings. Grab said these are not loans.

Mr Zainal, who is the deputy chairman for the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, was concerned that the programme could be used as a method to bind drivers and riders.

He also shared screenshots of e-mails he received from a Grab driver who claimed he had trouble repaying the cash advance.

The driver told Mr Zainal that after taking up a cash advance, his income dropped by about 30 per cent due to a change in Grab's incentive structure.

This resulted in challenges in repaying the cash advance, the driver said.

"For the past few weeks, I have been driving seven days a week. Literally seven days a week, just so I am able to clear the loan and also see a bit of salary," the driver added.

"This is really ridiculous."

The amount advanced to the driver was not specified.

In response to queries about Mr Zainal's Facebook post, Grab said that the cash advance paid to each of its partner takes into account multiple factors, including any change to the usual incentive structures.

It added: "Since launch, some 97 per cent of the incentive amounts paid out to partners under the Upfront Cash Programme were returned in a timely manner."

Those who are unable to earn and pay off the cash advance for any reason can approach Grab for help.

"A few hundred" of Grab's drivers and riders who took up the advance but stopped working on Grab's platforms in the past month have arranged for payments via alternative methods outside of Grab's app, such as through bank transfers, Grab said.

When told of Grab's response, Mr Zainal directed ST to his comment made on Thursday on his Facebook post.

He wrote that the programme was a better alternative as compared to borrowing from loan sharks, but said: "Borrowers must still beware of risks involved because their future earnings can fluctuate.

"I hope the penalties or interest for late payments are not severe to the point of causing the original loan to balloon out of control like those offered by moneylenders."

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.