Uber is rolling out new benefits for drivers working through its platform in Europe, including sick pay, paid parental and bereavement leave, and compensation for work-related injuries, the BBC reported this week:
The insurance and compensation package will be available to all Uber drivers and Uber Eats delivery couriers across Europe. However, unions have questioned whether the package is new. In April 2017, Uber announced illness and injury insurance cover for its drivers. Uber drivers who wanted to join the scheme were required to pay £2 a week. …
Uber will provide drivers with a range of insurance coverage and compensation resulting from accidents or injuries that occur while they are working, as well as protection for “major life events” that happen whether the driver is on a shift or not. … Drivers are not going to get the kind of benefits they would enjoy as employees but there will be a little something to help them deal with life’s ups and downs.
The announcement comes just a month before an appeals hearing in a London court regarding Transport for London’s decision last September to revoke Uber’s license to operate as a private car hire operator in the city, on the basis that its “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility.” Uber has been allowed to continue operating in London while it appeals the decision, as it is scheduled to do at Westminster Magistrates Court on June 25, the BBC notes.
The battle with Transport for London is just one of several Uber is fighting in the UK and continental Europe. Last November, the company lost an appeal against a ruling by a British employment tribunal that its drivers were misclassified as independent contractors and are in fact entitled to certain rights as employees, including paid leave, overtime, and a minimum wage. Uber contends that classifying its drivers as employees would fatally disturb its business model and prevent it from offering the flexibility in terms of work hours and location that most of its drivers consider a benefit. Critics contend that this is a false choice and that Uber could maintain that flexibility while offering drivers a fuller range of rights and protections. Uber is pursuing further appeals in that case.
Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the implications of automation and robotics for the workforce. Our belief is that this revolution will come faster than most suspect. Today we are discovering ways to automate a greater portion of the work human beings do than was never thought possible before; for example, we are already seeing experiments with robotics and AI in the insurance industry, finance, and other fields of knowledge work that were considered automation-proof just a few years ago.
Given the speed of this change, and its potentially massive workforce management implications, we have posed a question that every HR executive should have an answer to: Given that automation, robotics, and AI will significantly impact the skill sets required for your jobs, how will you manage it?
In answering this question, HR executives are faced with a choice when it comes to handling the new skill sets employees will need to be effective in a more automated work environment: fire the employees who no longer have the right skills and replace them with new ones who do, or retrain current employees in the new skill sets they require.
The UK insurance company Aviva has identified a smart way to get ahead of this challenge and involve employees in the process. This week, the Sunday Times reported that the insurer is asking all 16,000 of its employees to raise their hands if they think their job could be done by a robot instead. The benefit of this move is that if the employee is right, then the company will invest in (re)training them to update their skill set for a new role. This proactive approach has the potential to benefit employers and employees; it will be an interesting strategy to keep monitoring.
Automation driven by the rise of robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning is poised to change the working world faster and more dramatically than anything that has come before. This rapid and sudden economic transformation has sparked significant concerns about people losing their jobs to machines: While the roles most susceptible to automation are low-skill positions in fields like manufacturing, retail, and transportation, new technologies promise to have an impact on high-skill fields as well.
In fact, they already are. Quartz’s Dave Gershgorn passes along a story from Japan, where Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is reportedly replacing 34 insurance claim assessors with an AI system based on IBM’s Watson technology:
The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.