A London-based Uber driver has revealed the financial and emotional strain he is facing during the COVID-19 outbreak as a legal battle against the firm to bring employment rights builds momentum.
Since March, a large number of businesses have closed and people have been told to stay at home, which has had a knock-on effect on many of those who are working in the gig economy, as well as traditional taxi drivers around the UK.
Mike Wilkinson, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, has been an Uber driver for five years. Mike is part of the legal challenge brought by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of Uber drivers who are fighting to be classed as ‘workers’.
He said: “I’ve not been working since lockdown. Quite early on I had contact with a friend who had COVID-19 so I had to self-isolate for two weeks but thankfully I didn’t seem to catch the virus.
“For the two weeks I was isolating, I was paid £100 a week by Uber but that’s the only financial support I’ve received from them and I had to wait a long time to receive it.
“At the moment I’m working through my savings which I’m lucky to have. Other drivers who can’t work will be under a lot more pressure.”
With lockdown measures now easing, it is likely that more people will start using different modes of transport again, but Mike says he won’t consider going back to work until safety measures have been put in place.
He said: “It’s difficult to socially distance on public transport so Uber might get much busier because it’s seen as the safer option.
“This worries me for drivers’ health. We have already lost drivers to Coronavirus and it makes me angry.
“I’m concerned about my health because I’m borderline at risk as I am 61 with blood pressure issues. That’s why I won’t consider going back unless we can have partitions in the car.
“Uber hasn’t been proactive in explaining what they’re doing to protect drivers. I’ve been sent two tiny bottles of cleaning fluid but that’s all.”
Leigh Day believes tens of thousands of Uber drivers are eligible to make a claim in relation to being classed as ‘workers’.
This would mean they are entitled to certain rights including holiday pay and being paid at least the national minimum wage, as well as compensation for Uber’s failure to provide these benefits previously. Uber will only be legally required to compensate those who have brought a claim.
If successful in their legal case, the Uber drivers could be entitled to an average of £12,000 each in compensation, according to Leigh Day.
Mike said: “Being an Uber driver can be really stressful. The driving itself is easy but there are high consequences if you make a mistake.
“Of course, there are perks to working for Uber. I started working for them when I was having trouble financially. Uber was a lifeline, but I worked hard for it.
“Dealing with Uber can be difficult. They can ban you from driving for them at the drop of a hat and there’s no appeal process.
“It’s only fair that we have the same rights as any other workers.”
Image credit: TaxiPoint