Reclassifying Uber drivers as employees and incurring all of the expenses related to that status would cost the company "tens of millions" pounds in the United Kingdom, the tech giant's local Head of Policy Andrew Byrne said on Tuesday during an appearance in front of a parliamentary committee. No specific figures were given by Mr. Byrne and it remains unclear whether the San Francisco, California-based firm will be willing to publicly disclose them going forward. The vast majority of additional expenses which Uber would incur should it end up reclassifying approximately 50,000 British drivers as workers would come in the form of National Insurance payments. The company's drivers in the country are presently self-employed from a legal standpoint and only eligible for basic worker rights, not benefits like minimum wage and sick pay, though Uber previously said it's already paying them above the legal minimum for full-time workers.
Mr. Byrne also reflected on the company's recent issues in London earlier today, repeating some previous sentiments from his colleagues who said that the ride-hailing service provider is hoping to address and resolve its differences with Transport for London which recently denied its operating license renewal application, with working conditions being one of the cited reasons for that decision. Uber is presently in the process of appealing the refusal but has also started a direct dialogue with the competent agency with the goal of possibly settling the matter outside of a courtroom, something that both parties previously said would be their preferred method of ending the dispute. Uber is still expected to provide the TFL with numerous concessions after the regulator accused it of a lack of responsibility in several aspects of its operations like background checks and passenger safety.
Many of Uber's opponents in the UK insist that the company's business model is exploitative in nature and only allows it to beat its competitors by not providing its drivers with fair benefits, which is a notion that the tech giant repeatedly denied, insisting that it's not a traditional taxi service. The firm recently appointed a new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi who's been trying to address its London-related and other issues, including a high-profile legal dispute with Alphabet's Waymo over supposed theft of trade secrets related to self-driving technologies.