Uber has agreed to grant its drivers sick pay and injury cover as it faces intense scrutiny over employment rights under the gig economy.
The ride-hailing app announced on 27 April that its drivers can sign up to a security scheme that will cover them in the event that they cannot work.
In exchange for £2 a week, drivers who join the scheme will be covered if they are unable to work because of unforeseen circumstances such as illness, injury or jury duty, Uber said.
It comes as Uber is appealing an employment tribunal's decision that its drivers are workers, rather than self-employed, and therefore entitled to rights such as sick pay. It is one of the first companies that operates under the gig economy to offer such assurances.
MPs recently escalated the row over treatment of gig economy workers and slammed Uber’s contracts as “gibberish” and “almost unintelligible”.
Companies including Uber give the impression of offering their drivers flexibility, but this in fact only benefits the firms, said Frank Field, chair of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the gig economy.
Uber maintains that its drivers are are self-employed and have the freedom to work when they choose. However, this has led to complaints that some drivers are on average earning less than minimum wage and miss out when they can't work due to unexpected circumstances.
“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. “But drivers have also told us they want more security if something unexpected happens.”
Uber has partnered with the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed to offer the benefits to drivers. As well as sickness and injury cover of up to £2,000 it will also offer jury service cover of the same amount and occupational accident cover of £300 per week for up to a year.
Uber said it is subsidising the cost of joining the Association and accessing the insurances so that drivers pay £2 pay a week for benefits worth £8.
“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.