Uber says it will give its 70,000 UK drivers a guaranteed minimum wage, holiday pay and pensions in a move that could prompt a shake up of the country’s gig economy.
The ride-hailing giant said all drivers would earn at least the National Living Wage, which is £8.72 an hour.
It comes one month after the US firm lost a legal battle in the UK, begun in 2016, over drivers’ status.
Uber told the BBC it did not expect the change in conditions to push up fares.
However, analysts said the company increased prices in California after a similar ruling and was likely to do the same in the UK.
Union leaders and employment experts said Uber’s move would have far reaching consequences for the gig economy. Bates Wells lawyer Rachel Mathieson, who represented Uber drivers fighting for worker rights, called it “a very significant milestone”.
‘Willingness to change’
However, one union complained Uber would still not pay drivers for the time they spent waiting in between jobs.
The changes also do not apply to couriers in its food delivery business, Uber Eats, who remain self-employed.
Writing in the Evening Standard, Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said: “This is a significant improvement in the standard of work for UK drivers. But I know many observers won’t pat us on the back for taking this step, which comes after a five-year legal battle. They have a point, though I hope the path that we chose shows our willingness to change.”
In last month’s Supreme Court hearing, Uber had argued it was a third-party booking agent, and its drivers were self employed.
But the court ruled its drivers were workers, a category that means they are entitled to minimum legal, holiday and pension rights.
The company is being challenged by its drivers in multiple countries over whether they should be classed as workers or self-employed.
Uber, which has never made a profit, said the changes to its UK drivers’ pay would come in from Wednesday, and form an earnings floor, not an earnings ceiling.
The company said the new rates would come on top of free insurance to cover sickness, injury and maternity and paternity payments which have been in place for all drivers since 2018.
- It will pay at least the National Living Wage for over-25s, irrespective of a driver’s age, after accepting a trip request and after expenses
- All drivers will be paid holiday time based on 12.07% of their earnings, paid out on a fortnightly basis
- Drivers will automatically be enrolled into a pension plan with contributions from Uber alongside driver contributions, setting drivers up over the long term
- It will continue free insurance in case of sickness or injury as well as parental payments, which have been in place for all drivers since 2018
- All drivers will retain the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive
Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for Northern Europe at Uber, said: “Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives.
“Drivers have consistently told us that they wanted both the flexibility that we provided but also they wanted the benefits and we’ve been struggling to find a way of bringing those two together in a way that work for us and work for drivers,” he said.
Uber pointed out in its statement announcing the changes that a worker is a classification that is unique under UK employment law.
Workers are not full-blown employees but are entitled to the minimum wage, holiday pay and a pension.
The company said the recent UK Supreme Court ruling had provided a clearer path forward as to a model that gives drivers the rights of worker status – while continuing to let them work flexibly.