Uber called to parliament about its workplace pension.

I hope Stephen Timms and his committee ask Uber why it thought it could get away without paying its workers auto-enrolment contributions for many years. And I hope it will ask Uber why its workforce are saving into NOW pensions, a net pay scheme with only one fund -a fund that does not comply with the religious principals of the majority of Uber’s workers.

As I understand it , Uber did not make a conscious choice to appoint NOW pensionis as its provider, it left it to its HR service provider Adecco who were a pre-existing NOW customer and assumed that one workplace pension was pretty much like another.

Little or no consideration was made for the Uber drivers who are mostly moslem and are required by their religion to follow Halal investment principals (which translates into a “Sharia Fund” for non-muslims).

NOW did not have a Sharia fund and assumed that muslim drivers would be happy to invest in NOW’s single investment option. Understandably, the drivers and their union- ADCU considered this failure to acknowledge the principals of the Uber workforce more than a technical omission and threatened to take legal action unless a remedy was put in place.

ADCU members

All of which makes this image, which accompanied a press release from NOW last September, appear both disrespectful and disingenuosus.

How NOW advertised last year’s big win

From the homepage of http://www.nowpensions.com

NOW; a “pension scheme that works for everyone”?

The strapline is one that NOW is proud of, but it isn’t true – unless you consider people with religious principals “no ones”. NOW promised to put a Sharia compliant investment option in 2014 but didn’t – leading many with the impression that the fund was an option.

NOW’s board has included in the past John Monks – who was TUC general secretary and is now chaired by Joanne Seagers who was once the TUC pensions officer. NOW have this week been campaigning to reduce the gender pensions gap.

Sorry NOW, you do not have that moral authority. Even once you have put in your Sharia option, your integrity is compromised. Stop posting cute marketing videos and focus on delivering suitable investments  to all of your 2m+ customers.

For all your well-meaning trustees you cannot  preach to us about inequality when your pension scheme fails so many of its members. You cannot shout it is a scheme that works for everyone until it does.

Uber- start taking your staff and their pensions seriously.

Soon to be leaving – Jamie Heywood

Now we find that Uber’s soon to be departing Jamie Heywood is going to have to explain himself to the Work and Pensions Committee. I hope the WPC are properly briefed. Heywood will be succeeded next month by Andrew Brem as UK General Manager but it;s good that he is held to account for the decision taken on his watch.

Uber didn’t choose to pay into its workforce’s pension, it was forced to by the British Courts of Law who decided that it was wrongly considering its workforce weren’t “workers” for auto-enrolment purposes.

At last week’s WPC session , the CEO of the Pensions Regulator made it clear that TPR would continue to pursue employers in the gig economy who treated workers like staff but paid nothing into their pensions. It saw no reason to change the definition of “worker” and implied that following the Taylor report, the gig economy had better start taking pensions seriously.

Counsell implied that he would use the current demand for workers to ensure that workers got their rights and made it clear that there are many more Ubers.

Employer choice

Not all workplace pensions are the same, some suit low paid workers, some high, some are designed with advice in mind, some empower workers to engage directly through technology or through a conscious attempt to connect saves with their investments. Some workplace pensions are delivering better outcomes than others and service levels vary.

I hope that I am right and that Adecco (not Uber) chose NOW pensions but that does not absolve Uber. If I am wrong, and Uber thought NOW a suitable choice, I can only think they were looking to see high opt-outs – which is borderline illegal.

Lazy employers like Uber need to held to account by their members and their representaves. They need to know that tPR and the WPC will hold their feet to the fire. And they and their workplace pensions need to know that they cannot hide behind somokescreens like campaigns to reduce the gender pensions gap.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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