Uber | Will firm fix 'dire' gig economy rep with unusual approach to perks and benefits?

Will firm fix 'dire' gig economy rep with unusual approach to perks and benefits?

Uber has announced a raft of work perks for its workers, including free language courses and job recommendation letters, in the latest move towards improving the treatment of its gig economy workers.

As reported by PR Newswire, the ride sharing and delivery firm’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced new global resources for its drivers and delivery people – including those in the UK.

Among the new incentives, which will be built directly into the Uber Driver’s app, workers will be able to learn a new language, further their education, and get help from the company when searching for a new job, though an ‘achievement letter’ which will highlight their work experience.

The company's treatment of its drivers has been frequently questioned in recent years, with legal experts speaking out regarding the firm's "past failures", but could Uber's new announcement put the company on the right path to redemption?

‘Unlock your next step’

In a video announcement, Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, said the new resources would help drivers “unlock their next step.”

As reported by PR Newswire, Khosrowshahi said: "We have partnered with Rosetta Stone to help drivers and delivery people master the language they always wanted to learn.

“Now eligible drivers and delivery people around the globe will have access to Rosetta stone language learning courses which can help them unlock their next step as well as connect with their riders, customers and their community.”

Many drivers and delivery people are immigrants, learning a new country and language for the first time. In London, 82% of rideshare drivers are immigrants who might benefit from language learning, according to PR Newswire, and many drivers outside the US have cited learning English as a top goal.

In addition, Uber announced that all drivers and delivery people can request a letter from the company that describes the work they've done while using the Uber app. This letter will be on Uber's letterhead and include when they first signed up to use the app, the number of trips or deliveries they've done, their average customer rating, and top feedback. Drivers and delivery people can use these letters as evidence of their experience in jobs or other applications.

These new resources build on existing rewards that drivers and delivery people already have access to. This includes 100% tuition coverage at Arizona State University for its US drivers with Uber Pro Gold or above status, or their family members in the US.

Gig economy concerns

Although now signalling its commitment to gig workers’ wellbeing, Uber has previously had its hand forced when offering new rights and benefits to its workforce.

Earlier this year, the company announced that circa 70,000 drivers in the UK would be treated as workers, meaning that they will be entitled to several basic employment protections.

The news came after the ride-hailing firm lost a Supreme Court case in February, where it was ruled that it must classify its drivers as workers, rather than self-employed.

This means that they have access to holiday pay and a pension scheme, as well as to be paid at least the minimum wage.

At the time, Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, Partner at DMH Stallard, told HR Grapevine that Uber’s announcement “should not be a surprise”.

"Following last month’s Supreme Court ruling that their drivers are workers and entitled to these remuneration components, Uber was left with no choice but to meet its legal obligations,” she explained.

Despite this, the legal expert said that what the ride-hailing firm has not yet announced is how it will deal with “past failures to make these payments and when drivers will receive these monies”.

“As that will be a significant cost to Uber and involve complex calculations, those fighting on behalf on the drivers will continue to be involved in discussions that should result in settling historic underpayments…” she added.

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And in March, it was revealed that Deliveroo’s much-anticipated IPO projections would be cut by nearly £1billion – or 30% of the expected financial compensation – over concerns regarding the treatment of couriers.

Investors expressed concern about Deliveroo’s worker rights after the Independent Worker’s Union for Great Britain noted that some Deliveroo riders could well be earning less than £2 an hour.

However, Deliveroo disputed these claims, and told CNBC that it ‘treats its riders properly’ and gives them ‘the flexibility to work when they want’. It stated that riders earn an average of £13 per hour in peak times.

A Deliveroo Spokesperson told CNBC at the time: “Deliveroo riders are self-employed because this gives them the freedom to choose when and where to work. We are confident in our business model, which has been upheld by U.K. courts three times, including the High Court twice.”

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