LONDON (Reuters) - Drivers working for Uber [UBER.UL] in Britain will be able to access illness and injury cover under a new scheme from the San Francisco-based company, which has faced legal challenges over the way it treats its staff.
Uber, which allows users to book and pay for a taxi via a smartphone app, said on Thursday it would help fund a program which provides benefits to those workers also willing to contribute.
"Drivers who make money through Uber tell us they love the freedom of being their own boss and choosing if, when and where they drive. But drivers have also told us they want more security if something unexpected happens," Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said.
Like other firms in the so-called gig economy, Uber's growth has come with controversy, drawing protests from traditional taxi drivers, lawsuits from its drivers and regulatory bans.
Uber is appealing a British tribunal ruling that it should treat drivers as employees and pay the minimum wage and holiday pay. It ruled in October that Uber was acting unlawfully by treating them as self-employed and not providing certain rights.
The company has also faced other rulings over issues such as the standard of English its drivers must meet and the license fees it must pay, as regulators seek to rein in a firm that has shaken up the traditional taxi industry.
Under the new plan, Uber will make a "significant contribution" to the cost of joining a scheme run by the Association of Independent Professionals & the Self-Employed.
Active drivers who have completed at least 500 trips will be able to join the system by paying 2 pounds ($2.60) a week to access benefits such as sickness, injury and jury service cover.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Alexander Smith)