High-profile ride-hailing app Uber has introduced a 10-hour cap on driver’s hours.
Announcing the move this week, the firm claims it’s new policy is, “an industry first,” that will increase safety for its drivers and their passengers.
The timing comes as Uber prepares to appeal the decision by Transport for London to ban it from operating in the capital, which is the firm’s largest European market, boasting 3.5m users and 50,000 drivers.
What are the new rules for Uber drivers?
Drivers must take an uninterrupted six-hour break after 10 hours of driving with a passenger or travelling to pick up someone, it doesn’t cover time waiting for passengers.
The BBC reports that drivers will be unable to log in to the app and take trips if they haven’t taken the full six-hour break.
Andrew Byrne, Uber’s head of policy, said:
“We are not aware of any other private hire operator in the UK that has introduced such a limit.
“While drivers only spend an average of 30 hours a week logged into our app, we want to do our part to ensure they don’t drive tired.”
“We continue to listen to feedback and plan to make other changes and improvements over the coming months.”
Are the new rules enough to protect drivers and passengers?
Critics have blasted the new rule from Uber, dismissing it as a cynical PR stunt that won’t provide real benefits for drivers or customer safety.
Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association for black cab drivers, told the BBC:
“This is a toothless cap that still allows Uber’s drivers to work over 100 hours a week, and is a PR stunt that will not improve passenger safety.
“Uber can’t claim its drivers are self-employed and aren’t subject to minimum wage, but then try to limit the hours that they can work.”
“Unlike Uber drivers, all black cab drivers undertake enhanced driving tests and as such are well aware of the dangers of working long hours.”
“This high standard of safety is reflected in the low number of accidents involving licensed black cab drivers”.
“Still a long way to go.”
It was reported last month that the GMB union will submit evidence at Uber’s appeal during the summer, focusing the long hours worked by many Uber drivers, which it claims could impact customer safety.
The new rule, curbing driver’s hours, could help mitigate these concerns, but it doesn’t address other criticisms levelled at the firm regarding the employee rights of its drivers.
Uber is currently appealing another legal decision, following a tribunal ruling in November that stipulated it must treat its drivers as “workers” entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay.
The firm has come under fire for exploiting the ‘gig economy,’ with a report by Labour MP Frank Field previously finding that some drivers were in danger of taking home as little as £2 an hour, which is less than a third of the National Living Wage.
Speaking about the new rule on driver’s hours to the Financial Times, TfL declined to comment but a spokesperson for Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said Uber still had “a long way to go”.
“We need to tackle low pay and improve working conditions in the gig economy,” he said. “Like many others, this company still has a long way to go to achieve that.”