The U.K. government is trying to improve working conditions for contract workers participating in the “gig economy.”
Matthew Taylor, a former political strategist and adviser to then Prime Minister Tony Blair, performed an independent review of the “modern working practices” in the United Kingdom for the government. His recommendations could seriously affect the way companies—such as Uber— do business in the area.
Uber’s business model hinges in part, on being able to classify its drivers as independent contractors, not employees. In other words, Uber does not own the cars in its network and allows drivers to have full autonomy over the amount of hours they work. However, they are not eligible to receive full-time benefits even if they choose to work full-time hours because of their "independent contractor" status. In a 116-page document, Taylor and his team recommend that the government should implement protections for such workers.
The review suggests re-classifying independent contractors working full-time hours as “dependent contractors” and providing them additional benefits, such as sick leave, holiday pay, occupational illness or injury, pension plans, and further training.
“There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don't see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better,” Taylor told the BBC.
In response, Uber’s U.K. head of public policy, Andrew Byrne, said the company is “already investing in discounted illness and injury cover, and will be introducing further improvements soon."
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In February, Uber announced its decision to make its U.K. drivers’ lives “easier” by limiting the number of hours they can work. In a letter to Parliament, Byrne outlined several initiatives the ride-hailing company planned to make in 2017, many of which focus on improving driver experience like free skills courses and earnings advice sessions.
“Our business will only be successful if drivers want to work with us,” the letter says.