In Brief

Uber gives UK drivers sick pay and benefits

Ride-hailing app bows to growing political and legal pressure over workers’ rights

Uber has bowed to pressure and is set to offer its UK drivers a range of workers’ protections including sick pay, insurance cover and parental leave.

The ride-hailing app, which is currently engaged in legal battles in London, York and Brighton over the renewal of its operating licence, has said it will offer benefits to 70,000 of its UK ‘partners’ in a bid “to demonstrate it is a responsible member of the so-called gig economy”, says Sky News.

The decision follows a landmark ruling last year, when a British employment tribunal upheld a ruling that UK-based Uber drivers should be classed as staff, not self-employed workers, and are therefore entitled to holiday pay and the minimum wage.

Speaking in Paris on Wednesday, Uber’s boss Dara Khosrowshahi promised to introduce “groundbreaking protections” across Europe, where it has around 150,000 drivers.

He said that the move showed the company was “committed to being a better partner” and that it would “continue to ensure that the voices of the drivers and couriers are heard as we take Uber forward together”.

Following a number of high-profile scandals that rocked the company under his predecessor, Travis Kalanick, “ever since Dara Khosrowshahi took over as CEO last August he has tried to project an image of a kinder gentler Uber” says BBC technology correspondent Rory-Cellan-Jones, “and that conciliatory style is evident in this move”.

Amid an atmosphere of growing political and legal pressure, the latest measures have provoked a mixed response from politicians and unions, with accusations the company is merely trying to pre-empt regulatory action that could harm its business model.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) criticised the company, likening its announcement to a publicity stunt rather than a genuine move to address workers' concerns.

It is true “drivers are not going to get the kind of benefits they would enjoy as employees”, says Cellen-Jones, “but there will be a little something to help them deal with life’s ups and downs”.

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