Uber to give U.K. drivers minimum wage, pension, holiday pay — but it's only a partial victory
Drivers logged in to app and waiting for requests won't be paid for that time
Uber is giving its U.K. drivers minimum wage, pensions and holiday pay, following a recent court ruling that said they should be classified as workers and entitled to such benefits.
The ride hailing giant's announcement Tuesday comes after it lost an appeal last month at the U.K. Supreme Court following a years-long court battle. The court's decision holds wider implications for the country's gig economy.
Uber said it's extending the benefits immediately to its more than 70,000 drivers in the U.K. Drivers will earn at least the minimum wage, which currently stands at 8.72 pounds ($15.10 Cdn), after accepting a trip request and expenses, and will still be able to earn more.
Drivers will also get holiday pay equal to about 12 per cent of their earnings, paid every two weeks. And they'll be enrolled in a pension plan that both they and the company will pay into.
Uber said drivers will be at least 15 per cent better off after the changes, if they opt into the pension plan.
"This is an important day for drivers in the U.K.," Uber's regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
He noted that drivers will still be able to work on a flexible basis. "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."
Former drivers say it's not enough
The two former drivers who filed the 2016 tribunal case that made its way to the top court welcomed the news but said it's not enough.
Uber has "arrived to the table with this offer a day late and a dollar short, literally," James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam of the App Drivers And Couriers Union said in a statement.
On the minimum wage, granted for those aged 25 and over, Uber said it would apply "after accepting a trip request and after expenses."
Drivers will not receive it during the time they spend waiting for a passenger request, which can account for as much as a third of the time drivers are behind the wheel with the app turned on, according to several U.S. studies.
Farrar and Aslam said the changes stopped short of the Supreme Court's ruling that pay should be calculated from when drivers log on to the app until they log off. And they said the company can't decide by itself the expense base for calculating the minimum wage, which should be based on a collective agreement.
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An employment tribunal found Uber drivers are not independent contractors, but should be designated workers, which under British law means their work terms are more casual than employees but still come with some benefits. Uber lost two rounds of appeals before the Supreme Court decision.
Benefits will raise costs for Uber
Providing more benefits for its drivers is likely to raise costs for San Francisco-based Uber, which already was struggling to make a profit and had previously run into regulatory trouble in London, where authorities had sought to revoke its licence. It said, however, that it wasn't adjusting its earnings forecast for the year.
The move in the U.K. contrasts with the outcome of a November ballot proposition in California, where voters passed an initiative exempting app-based ride-hailing and food delivery services from classifying their drivers as employees instead of contractors.
With files from Reuters