In a statement released today, the ride hailing app said that it had lost sight of the fact that its drivers were “at the heart of the Uber experience”.
“We focused too much on growth and not enough on the people who made that growth possible,” said Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi. “We called drivers ‘partners’, but didn’t always act like it. An important part of being a good partner is being a good listener.”
He said the group was responding to the demand for security and peace of mind by providing a range of free insurance coverage including sickness, injury and maternity and paternity payments for drivers and couriers throughout Europe.
The scheme will start on 1 June and will instantly cover 150,000 Uber “partners” in Europe, including 70,000 drivers and couriers in the UK.
He described the scheme as “an important step in addressing some of the biggest concerns raised by our independent partners who rely on Uber”.
“But the listening doesn’t stop here,” he added. “We’ll continue to ensure that the voices of the drivers and couriers are heard as we take Uber forward together.”
The move comes in the run-up to a major court hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on 25 June, when the app will appeal against the decision by Transport for London (TfL) not to renew its private hire operating licence in London.
TfL withdrew the licence in September last year over concerns about public safety and security. The licensing authority was unhappy with the level of cooperation with authorities regarding driver checks and alleged sex attacks on passengers. It was also concerned about the so-called “greyball” software designed to mislead authorities by preventing them from making checks on drivers.
However, Uber has been able to continue operating in the capital while awaiting the outcome of the appeal hearing.
It suffered another blow in the weeks following TfL’s decision. In November Uber failed to overturn an Employment Tribunal granting its drivers rights including holiday pay, sick pay and the national minimum wage. It is now appealing that decision to the Court of Appeal.
The GMB union, which represented a number of Uber drivers in the Employment Tribunal, hailed Uber’s decision over sick pay as a “well-deserved victory”.
GMB national officer Mick Rix said that Uber finally seemed to be listening to its drivers’ complaints about their treatment. “This is a major step in the right direction, but our successful court victories, winning workers’ rights for Uber drivers, could have all been avoided if they had sat down and talked with GMB from the start,” he argued.
The new insurance scheme does not provide the equivalent of employee sick pay though since, in order to be eligible, the driver must have completed at least 150 trips in the previous eight weeks, while an Uber Eats courier must have completed at least 30 deliveries over the same period of time.