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Uber urges drivers to use free insurance after rows over employment rights

Uber logo is seen at its headquarters in San Francisco, California on October 15, 2019. The ridesharing company has laid off 350 employees on Monday, October 14, in an effort to cut cost. Shares of Uber climbed 3.2\% following the announcement. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA)
Uber introduced free insurance for drivers. Photo: Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA

Uber is urging drivers to use its free AXA insurance package to cover lost earnings when they take time off work due to illness, accidents or parenthood.

Figures seen exclusively by Yahoo Finance UK suggest more than 9,000 drivers in the UK have received claims payments in the past year, including 3,000 for maternity and paternity time off.

The tech firm (UBER) launched the UK ‘partner protection’ scheme last year, with insurance firm AXA underwriting the coverage for “the financial cost of life-changing events.”

It came as the firm faced growing scrutiny over its business model and drivers’ self-employed status, including losing a UK employment tribunal case that saw drivers classed as its ‘workers.’

Uber is still appealing the tribunal decision, saying drivers value the freedom and flexibility of self-employment despite the far greater financial risks and responsibilities.

READ MORE: Biggest fall in UK employment numbers in four years as firms axe part-time staff

But the company “appears to have been prodded into action” by the case, according to independent MP Frank Field in a report earlier this year.

He linked the legal battle to the rollout of the AXA scheme and said the new provision was “welcome,” though said the company should go further and accept the ruling that drivers are workers.

Uber describes the scheme as an “industry first,” with cover for injury, certain medical expenses, permanent disability and death for drivers at work.

It also includes “inconvenience compensation” for certain injuries, severe sickness, paternity or maternity and jury service for drivers while not working.

READ MORE: Labour would let workers pick their hours in ‘workplace revolution’

Drivers have received payouts covering more than 50,000 days of lost earnings due to injury or sickness, according to figures from Uber.

An Uber spokeswoman said recent examples included a driver claiming to cover her mortgage and bills after a major operation left her unable to drive.

Melinda Roylett, Uber’s UK general manager, said: “Up and down the country, thousands of drivers using the Uber app enjoy choosing if, when and where to drive, with the peace of mind that they are covered should something go wrong.

“Drivers are at the heart of everything we do and I am immensely proud that we are continuing to support them through this partnership with AXA.”

Toni LePine, UK and Ireland head of retail, accident and health at AXA, added: “Digital technologies are changing the ways that many of us work, which in certain cases has created the need for new methods of insurance protection.”