Uber will from Monday require all riders and drivers to wear face masks or coverings before embarking on a journey, according to new guidelines published as coronavirus restrictions around the world start to lift.
- Uber drivers and delivery workers must confirm they are wearing a mask before starting work, via a new checklist that will ask them to take a selfie before they can log on. They must also confirm that they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Once Uber has verified that the user has taken the necessary safety steps, it will let the rider know in the app, the ride-hailing company wrote in a post on Wednesday. Drivers not wearing a mask will not be allowed to go online to start work.
- Riders must now agree to sit in the back and keep the windows open for ventilation. Using a similar checklist to drivers, passengers must also confirm they are wearing a face mask or covering, and that they’ve washed their hands.
- In another step, the company recommends no more than three passengers are allowed on its standard Uber X service, down from four passengers.
- The checklist applies to the United States, Canada, India and most of Europe and Latin America, but appears to exclude the U.K., despite the country being one of worst-hit countries in Europe.
- The company is said to be following U.K. government guidelines about the use of face masks, and is not making them mandatory in the U.K., although users are advised to wear one.
- The new guidelines will last until June, and will be reassessed “local public health needs,” Uber said.
From Monday, both riders and drivers can cancel a trip without penalty if they don’t feel safe, and users risk being kicked off the app if they repeatedly fail to comply.
The company says it has spent $50 million to buy personal protective equipment for drivers, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Some 23 million face masks are being shipped to drivers’ homes around the world. Uber says it is reimbursing the cost of PPE and cleaning equipment for drivers unable to receive shipments directly.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Uber is trialling installing taxi-style protective screens between drivers and passengers in 400 cars in north east England, in a move that could potentially be rolled out more widely.
Uber's playing catch up with its big U.S. rival Lyft, who introduced similar rules last week requiring drivers and riders to wear masks. Lyft is spending $2.5 million to provide cleaning equipment for drivers.
The pandemic has highlighted the lack of labor and safety protection for gig economy workers like Uber drivers and delivery riders. Uber is facing pressure to provide a safety net for its contractors, 1.3 million of whom work in the U.S.. In March, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi urged U.S. lawmakers to create a “third way” status that sits between contractor and employee. But unions say this approach would lead to lower protections and rights for workers. Khosrowshahi has suggested he could introduce a system of healthcare benefits for contractors.
Khosrowshahi last week announced the company is laying off 3,700 workers, mostly in its recruitment and customer service teams. More staff cuts are likely to follow, according to an internal note shared with employees.