Uber CEO: We Want to Give All Drivers Insurance, Benefits

October 4, 2018, 12:51 PM UTC

Uber drivers everywhere may one day receive health insurance and other benefits, if the CEO of the ride-hailing company gets his way.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, indicated Wednesday that the company is working to close the gap between its treatment of full-time employees and drivers—including by offering the latter access to similar perks and protections.

“For the first time, I think we are now listening to our drivers, and we are building out our services in concert with them,” Khosrowshahi said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

While Uber has long referred to its drivers as “partners,” it has been criticized for policies that don’t live up to that term. As independent contractors, drivers have not historically had access to the benefits that Uber extends to full-time workers.

“If you’re going to call your drivers partners, then treat them like partners,” Khosrowshahi said. “So that you don’t get this world where independent contractors are the ‘have-nots’ and full time employees are the ‘haves.’”

Uber has recently begun providing its drivers in the European Union with health care and accident insurance, as well as maternity and paternity leave. Although European labor standards put more pressure on Uber to offer protections to its contractors there, Khosrowshahi expressed a desire to expand that coverage worldwide.

“Where we would like to take independent contractors is into a state where it’s not a ‘have-not’ state—you can create a framework of benefits, etc., around the world as well,” he said. “We have a long way to go, but at least in Europe we’ve gotten one step closer.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Uber would pay for the coverage by itself. In an interview last week at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference, Khosrowshahi described a system of portable benefits that would cover temporary contractors continuously from job to job, no matter which company they worked for—something the CEO has proposed in Washington State.

Khosrowshahi envisions a future where workers are less tethered to a single employer because of their need for medical and dental insurance. “I think that work should be about work, not about company,” he said at the Fortune conference.

The focus on improving conditions for Uber drivers come amid the company’s broader efforts to make its culture more hospitable to all employees, following last year’s upheaval over harassment complaints that led to the ouster of founder Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi replaced Kalanick as Uber’s CEO in August 2017.

Speaking at the Most Powerful Women Summit alongside his mother, Lili Khosrowshahi, the Uber CEO said there was still a lot of work to do in pursuit of that goal. “The company understands that it’s in our interest to build out diversity, especially because our driver and rider world is so diverse,” Dara Khosrowshahi said. “I think it’s too early to declare success, but I can declare intent.”

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