A new survey found that drivers and voters overwhelmingly support Uber’s new Independent Contractor (IC) plan that allows drivers to continue to work as Independent Contractors but gives them access to benefits that today are only available to employees under existing labor laws. While drivers, inevitably, say they prefer benefits to no benefits, they still overwhelmingly prefer flexibility to receiving employment benefits.
Uber engaged two research firms, Democratic-leaning Benenson Strategy Group and Republican-leaning GS Strategy Group, to come together in a bi-partisan independent research project to facilitate research on concerns of app-based Drivers, their attitudes about Uber’s proposal, as well as the voter perspective on the issue.
While Democrats have been pushing to label rideshare drivers as employees, very few would like to take on that label. Nearly 77% of drivers say flexibility is more important than receiving benefits.
Here are some of the groups’ findings:
- 77% of Drivers say flexibility is more important than receiving benefits. In other words, Drivers prefer flexibility over the benefits of employment by more than 3-to-1.
- When presented with 3 options – employment, current IC status, or a plan to maintain the flexibility of IC status with access to certain benefits – 85% of Drivers chose the plan or the status quo, with only 15% opting for employment.
- 88% of Drivers believe the government should remove barriers preventing Drivers from receiving benefits while they are independent contractors, and 86% believe rideshare and delivery companies should work to remove these barriers.
- 82% of Drivers support this plan, which offers access to certain benefits, while prioritizing the flexibility that brings them to independent work. 88% of Drivers agree that this plan would benefit them (40% strongly agree).
- Voters overwhelmingly support the policy plan and it is broadly supported across party and geographical lines. 3 in 4 (76%) Voters support the plan, including: 78% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans, and 74% of Independents; 72% in the Northeast, 76% in the Midwest, 75% in the South, and 79% in the West; 74% of those in battleground states.
- 86% of Drivers say a reason they chose app-based driving was to have flexibility in their schedule (71% say this was a major reason) and 86% of Drivers agree that they would no longer be able to drive if it didn’t offer a flexible schedule.
- When asked whether or not they would continue to drive if Drivers were reclassified as traditional employees, and would receive the benefits and protections of an employee, but had to work fulltime hours on a set schedule, report to a boss, and abide by other rules set by the company, 70% of Drivers said they would not want to continue driving.
- 88% of Voters agree the plan will benefit Drivers. 79% of Voters would be more likely to support the policy if a majority of Drivers supported it (note – 82% of Drivers support the plan).
- Just 34% of Uber Drivers work only with Uber or Uber Eats; the remaining 66% also drive with other app-based companies like Lyft, DoorDash, Grubhub, Instacart, or Amazon Flex.
It is clear that drivers prefer to keep independent contractor status, therefore maintaining their independence and flexible work schedule. In fact, nearly 70% of drivers would quit if they had to take on a traditional employment role with Uber.
Additionally, there are some existing restrictions on giving independent contractors benefits. For example, according to Society for Human Resource Management, independent contractors are not eligible to receive tax-free benefits from the organization. Also, “if a company chooses to offer health care benefits to an independent contractor, the contractor must pay income taxes on the value of the benefit. If the company includes an independent contractor in its defined benefit pension plan, it risks losing the tax-exempt status of the plan.” As noted above, these are the kinds of restrictions that 88% of drivers believe should be removed.
Once restrictions on providing benefits to ICs are removed, Uber (and other rideshare companies) could surely implement this benefit plan voluntarily. While Uber supports mandating the plan, this could make it impossible for other rideshare services to compete in the gig economy. After all, if Uber believes this is the right thing to do, once barriers are removed, there is no reason they couldn’t implement the plan they created. Voluntarily implementing these benefits could give rideshare companies (like Uber) a notable edge in recruiting drivers for its platform. Thus, other rideshare services who can afford it may follow.