Uber adds tipping and waiting charges to app in major update
Uber is introducing in-app tipping for the first time, as well as stricter rules on cancelling car requests and new charges for users who keep drivers waiting.
From Tuesday, an option to tip drivers will appear in the Uber smartphone app and will also apply to the firm’s food delivery service, UberEATS.
The firm’s UK regional general manager Jo Bertram said the decision to introduce tipping had come after consultation with its drivers.
Uber also confirmed that from August 22, new waiting time charges will apply to users who keep drivers waiting at the start of a journey.
Ms Bertram said: “Drivers’ time is valuable and every minute spent waiting for a rider means less time driving and making money.
“That’s why – from two minutes after the driver arrives at the pick-up point – riders will pay 20p for every further minute they keep their driver waiting.”
The charge may be higher than 20p a minute for users of the more premium XL, EXEC and LUX Uber car services, the company said.
Uber has also cut the cancellation time window for users, with those who have been allocated a car now eligible to pay a fee for cancelling a journey request after just two minutes, down from five minutes currently.
“Following feedback, we feel this is too long as drivers are well on their way to the pick-up point and have already invested time and fuel,” Ms Bertram said
“That’s why we’re reducing the rider cancellation time so if a rider cancels two minutes after being allocated a car they will now pay the cancellation fee – though this won’t apply if a driver is running five minutes behind the original ETA.”
Uber has previously come under scrutiny over the employment status of its drivers, with questions raised over whether they are self-employed or workers for the company.
A recent government report into workers’ rights in the so-called ‘gig economy’ of which Uber is a part said a new “dependent contractor” category of worker should be create to better protect those working in the sector.
Uber said these latest changes showed it was listening it to its drivers.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve hosted hundreds of events and spoken to thousands of drivers on the phone, in the office and at roundtable discussions,” Ms Bertram added.
“While drivers have told us they love the freedom of being their own boss, we’ve also clearly heard that we need to make improvements.
“As a direct result of this feedback, we have already made a number of big changes. In February, we announced a series of initiatives to help drivers make the most out of using the app and two months later, we invested in discounted illness and injury cover with IPSE for drivers who want it.”
The range of updates to the Uber app will also include a new ‘No thanks’ button for drivers to deny trip requests – which Uber says will also reduce waiting times for users as their journey requests will now be passed on to another driver faster.
However, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) chairman James Farrar called the changes a “cynical PR move”.
Mr Farrar and fellow IWGB member Yaseen Aslam were part of a landmark employment tribunal ruling last year which granted Uber drivers status as workers entitled to rights such as minimum wage when logged into the Uber app and sick pay.
Uber is appealing against the decision, with proceedings due to begin in September.
The IWGB said it welcomed some of the changes Uber was implementing, but claimed they were “timid” and would “barely make any difference to drivers’ lives and working conditions”.
In contrast, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) – which partnered with Uber in April to offer sickness and injury cover to drivers – said it welcomed the updates.
Deputy director of policy Andrew Chamberlain said: “These incentives, which will come into effect in the next few weeks, provide further evidence that Uber is committed to providing a fairer deal for their partner drivers with benefits that both establish and protect the freedom, control and autonomy that makes self-employment so attractive.
“Taxi drivers in general have long been self-employed, and drivers using the Uber app are no different.”