Union takes legal action on behalf of Uber drivers impacted by coronavirus
Law Firm Leigh Day has filed a legal challenge against the UK government, on behalf of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and two Uber drivers, over its failure to extend income and sickness protection to large sections of workers during coronavirus.
Posted on 08 May 2020
The union, of which the drivers are members, argues that protection provided by the government’s proposed Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is significantly worse than that provided to employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
The SEISS will only be introduced in June and excludes a number of workers including those that became self-employed after 6 April 2019 and any who earn less than 50% of their income from self-employment. It also does not cover on-going overheads.
The claimants also say £95.85 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) discriminates against women, BAME workers and gig economy workers, arguing these payments are not enough to survive on or in some cases not available.
Rosa Curling, solicitor from law firm Leigh Day said:
“It is vital, now more than ever, that the incomes of gig economy workers are protected, ensuring these hard-working people are not left destitute during this time of crisis.
“Current measures put in place by the government do not go far enough. While employees are guaranteed 80% of their salary up to a cap of £2500 per month, gig economy workers do not have the same assurances.
“This lack of protection disproportionately affects those in BAME communities and women. Urgent action must be taken to address this omission.”
IWGB member and Uber driver Sarja Richards said:
“I worked 60 hours this week for £40 and I’m three weeks in arrears on my rent. I have three children counting on me. How am I supposed to explain to them that we can’t pay our bills? The government’s promised assistance is not enough, doesn’t cover the huge expenses we have as Uber drivers and will come too late. How are we expected to survive until June? We need real action and we need it now.”
IWGB member and claimant on the case Ahmad Adiatu said:
“I started working as an Uber driver a few years ago thinking it would be enough to provide for me and my family, but now with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic it has become impossible. As an Uber driver, costs such as car maintenance, insurance and congestion charge can reach over £1,000 a month. Now I have no money, so can't even renew my private hire license. With virtually no income coming in, we've been struggling to get by and we are behind on our rent. My wife, who is now breastfeeding, has even had to sell her phone in order to buy food for herself and the children. I've always worked hard and provided for my family. I just want to be able to continue doing that.”
IWGB General Secretary Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee said:
"Statutory sick pay has never been more important, for both low paid workers as well as for society more generally, than it is now. So it must be extended to cover more people and set at a rate which actually allows workers to go off sick and follow public health advice. Similarly, it is crucial that the shortcomings of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are fixed so as to avoid further unnecessary destitution. It is unfortunate we have had to litigate to make these points, but this Government has left us and our members with no choice."