Freenow UK lets taxi drivers decide their employment status

ride-haling app

Thousands of taxi drivers have been given the choice to work as self-employed or become part of the staff at ride-hailing company.

Freenow UK asked its 20,000 taxi and private hire drivers to choose their employment status, asking whether they wanted to remain self-employed and enjoy the freedom that goes with it, or become employees and enjoy benefits such as paid holidays and sick pay.

There are benefits to both options and drivers are being given the choice to pick the scenario that best suits them. Some might want the security and benefits that go with status as an employee, while others may prefer the freedom to do other work which they can do as self-employed.

A turning point for private hire drivers

There has been plenty of focus on the status of private hire drivers since Uber and other ride-hailing companies launched in the UK. Uber’s initial model saw drivers treated as independent contractors but, after a five-year battle for recognition, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the company’s 60,000 workers in the UK should receive entitlements including paid holiday and the national minimum wage.

As Taxi Point reports, it is good to see drivers being given the choice. After conducting a survey, Freenow found that most private hire drivers would prefer to remain independent contractors (59%), almost a third (31%) would prefer to have worker status, while 10% are undecided.

And unsurprisingly, the most sought-after benefit for drivers is holiday pay (71%). For the self-employed, they not only have the expense of a holiday to consider, they are also losing money while they are not working.

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What are Freenow offering their drivers?

Following the survey, from this month drivers can decide whether to choose Freenow worker status and receive the National Living Wage guarantee, holiday pay and access to Freenow’s pension scheme.

Drivers who prefer to remain as self-employed for employment purposes will see high earnings per trip to compensate for the lack of other benefits enjoyed by employees.

Meanwhile, all public hire taxi drivers at Freenow will remain as independent contractors following the survey after only 10% said they preferred worker status. This gives them higher independence with street-hailing and taxi ranks.

It is good to see companies consulting with those who will be affected by any planned changes. What is even better is that drivers do not appear to be missing out depending on which option they chose.

Freenow UK general manager Mariusz Zabrocki told Taxi Point: “We always do the utmost for our drivers and we regularly listen to them. It’s now clear that minicab drivers in London want to have more than one option regarding their employment status. Therefore, we are taking an industry-first approach empowering the 20,000 minicab drivers on our platform to make the best choice for them. We’re also proud to be the first company to offer trade union protections to both workers and independent contractors.

“This development is the most recent in a long line of advantages we offer drivers, from support with EV transition to access to other benefits through our partners, including fuel cards, discounted vehicle rentals and discounted courses to prepare for TfL-required tests. At Freenow, we strive to provide a premier service for our drivers as well as passengers, and this is just another step towards achieving that goal.”

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Do you prefer being self-employed or would you rather enjoy the benefits of becoming an employee?