After coming under fire for its strict and confusing limitations on paid sick leave, Uber announced that it’s expanding eligibility for contractors affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic”with the catch that the financial aid package each driver receives is likely to shrink moving forward.
It’s one of several tweaks to its covid-19 response plan that the ridesharing company announced in a blog post Friday. Uber will now extend financial aid to eligible drivers under quarantine orders because of a preexisting health condition that puts them at greater risk for serious illness due to the virus. To qualify, you’ll need documentation from your doctor or a public health official stating as much. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warns that covid-19 is known to be especially dangerous for certain demographics, including anyone with a chronic respiratory condition, compromised immune system, or other serious underlying medical condition.
Previously, only Uber drivers with a positive covid-19 diagnosis or those who had been determined at-risk for spreading the virus and quarantined by a public health authority qualified for two weeks of paid leave.
“Many of you have told us that the policy we originally launched supported too few drivers and the process to get funds has been complicated and confusing…” Uber wrote in Friday’s blog post. “We are learning as we go. Because we can’t predict what another month will bring, we will continue to listen, act on feedback, and regularly review our financial assistance policy for changes.”
This new policy went into effect in the U.S. starting Friday, and will roll out worldwide within the next week and a half. Only drivers who have completed a trip within the last 30 days are eligible. And fair warning: Filing for financial assistance still puts a temporary hold on your account until Uber completes the review as “a safety measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19.”
Uber also added that it’s reviewing rejected cases submitted within the last month and will issue financial aid retroactively to drivers who would have been approved under this new framework.
Along with these relaxed eligibility requirements, Uber also tweaked its system for calculating the payout for those two weeks of paid time off. The previous policy determined compensation based on a driver’s average weekly earnings over the last six months; now that period has been shortened to the last three months, and a location-based payout cap limits what each driver brings home. In Los Angeles, for example, a driver can expect to receive a maximum of $US459 ($722) regardless of how much they’ve worked for Uber in the past, according to several stats the company shared in its post. For those who drive for Uber full-time, that works out to less than $US6 ($9) per hour for a standard workweek.
“We know that establishing a maximum payment per person means some of the most active drivers and delivery people will receive less than what they typically earned before COVID-19 was widespread,” Uber said. “But by expanding eligibility, we hope this assistance can provide a modest form of relief for more drivers and their families.”
To date, Uber has paid out $US3 ($5) million through its covid-19 financial aid program, a company spokesperson told apparent lack of concern for its contractors’ financial security and health during this outbreak.