As Uber continues to get more negative attention for its business culture and practices, the company today is taking one step ahead in the UK to try to improve its relationship with drivers here. The company is today announcing a new partnership with the Association of Independent Professionals & the Self-Employed (IPSE) to offer personal injury and illness cover for its 40,000 drivers in the country.
This is different from the insurance cover that Uber has provided to drivers when they are driving cars, either during or between Uber rides, and an Uber spokesperson tells me that as far as it knows it’s a first for the company in any market, and the first for a private hire and taxi company in the the UK, too.
Notably, a UK tribunal ruled in October 2016 that Uber employees were entitled to holiday pay, sick leave, rest breaks and the National Living Wage, a ruling that Uber is now appealing and claiming that its drivers are sole traders. Regardless of how that plays out, this new policy will remain in effect, Uber told me today. “This [new coverage policy] would still hold as the vast majority of drivers don’t want to be reclassified as workers,” the spokesperson said.
Uber says that the announcement is part of the company’s bigger efforts to build more services for its drivers in the UK, based around some initial conversations and research it carried out in February.
The merger earlier this week of Juno and Gett underscored how some rivals, albeit much smaller ones, may be winning over more drivers simply because they are trying to create services that treat them better. While there may be still a very long way to go, this is a mark of how Uber is trying to do the same, lest it, longer term, lose customers on the driver side of its two-sided marketplace.
Uber says the scheme will work like this: all active drivers who use the Uber app in the UK, who have completed at least 500 trips, will be eligible to join IPSE, which costs £2 a week. Those drivers can then get benefits.
Coverage includes, according to Uber, the following: sickness and injury cover of up to £2,000 if unable to drive for two weeks or more; jury service cover of up to £2,000; free advice and support on paying tax as well as personal finance issues such as mortgages, pensions and saving for the future; and occupational accident cover of £300 per week for up to 52 weeks if an accident takes place during a trip or while logged into the Uber app. There is also accidental death or permanent total disablement cover of £50,000 if an accident takes place during a trip or while logged into the Uber app.
“Drivers who make money through Uber tell us they love the freedom of being their own boss and choosing if, when and where they drive,” said Jo Bertram, Regional General Manager of Uber in the UK, in a statement. “But drivers have also told us they want more security if something unexpected happens. That’s why we’re really pleased to offer drivers this package with IPSE so they have more support in case of illness or injury. We want Uber to be the best possible experience so we’ll carry on listening to drivers about further improvements we can make to our app.”
“IPSE is excited to partner with Uber and the thousands of self-employed drivers who use their app. In addition to gaining valuable illness and injury cover, drivers will benefit from being part of the UK’s largest voice dedicated to supporting the self-employed community,” said Chris Bryce, Chief Executive of IPSE. “It is part of IPSE’s mission to represent all self-employed people and welcoming drivers who use Uber into the fold helps us achieve this.”
It’s also running in tandem with other efforts from the company to improve the ride experience, such as yesterday’s announcement that it will make it easier to see your rating if you’re a rider.