Uber injury insurance kick starts push for contractor benefits

by

David Marin-Guzman

Uber has introduced a unique injury insurance program for drivers and delivery riders in what the company sees as the first step to establishing employee-style benefits for contractors.

The new accident insurance policy, effective from Friday, will entitle UberEats and UberX drivers to daily payments of up to $150 or lump sums of up to $400,000 for injuries caused by accidents during trips on the app.

The policy, similar to workers’ compensation, is intended to kick start the company’s push to reform laws so it can introduce benefits for independent contractors but without being labelled an employer.

Uber regional general manager Susan Anderson said the policy was developed with Chubb Insurance over several months to fit with Australian law.

“Our driver partners told us they wanted more support when something goes wrong,” she said.

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Drivers are covered by the policy once they accept a ride or delivery request and for 15 minutes after the job is over, but not between deliveries or trips.

Temporary injuries attract payments of $150 a day for 30 days where a driver is medically unfit to work, fractured bones could see lump sum payments of $2000 and disabilities or death up to $400,000.

Uber push for ‘long-term solutions’

Uber’s head of global policy, Amit Singh, who was deputy chief of staff to Bill Shorten and served as senior economic adviser to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, said similar Uber polices operated in Europe, the United States, India and Africa.

“Being your own boss doesn’t have to come at the expense of income security,” he said.

“That’s why Uber CEO [Dara Khosrowshahi] this year laid out a global standard for drivers that everyone should have the ability to protect themselves and their loved ones when they’re injured at work, get sick or it’s time to retire.”

He said Uber Australia was now seeking to bring key thinkers, academics and business leaders together to discuss “long-term policy solutions” to embrace the gig economy, including updating the existing legal framework.

“The truth is in Australia and in other parts of the world the framework to support people in independent work are out of date. We’re applying a 19th century structure to a 21st century problem.”

“We hope the investment we’re making here makes it clear our commitment to do the right thing for our partners in Australia but also to start the ball rolling in this really important debate.”

Uber has had some success in in France, which passed laws in August allowing new work platforms to draft “social charters” describing their model and social initiatives.

The benefits in the charter could not be treated as indicative of an employment relationship on the condition that gig companies taken on social responsibility, including contributions to vocational training.

In Australia, the Transport Workers Union is pushing a motion in the ALP national conference next month to change laws to allow gig workers and independent contractors to establish minimum pay and conditions.

The Fair Work Commission and Australian Tax Office recently determined that gig workers at food delivery company Foodora were not independent contractors but employees..

However, the Foodora decisions are not understood to extend to Uber due to its more complex contractual arrangements.

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