But in the UK, where 71.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, the new surge is not bringing the same death toll as past coronavirus waves.
The UK government’s coronavirus dashboard features daily counts of positive COVID-19 tests and deaths. A comparison of those two data sets shows how the relationship between infections and deaths has changed over time.
Throughout July, the ratio of deaths to cases in the UK has remained much lower than it was at any prior point of the pandemic.
In the early days of the UK’s first wave last spring, the ratio of deaths to cases shot up. Similarly, in the wave seen last winter, that ratio rose notably again.
The UK’s latest surge began in June. By July 1, the seven-day average of new cases had grown to nearly six times what it was on June 1. The new wave is producing almost as many daily cases as the surge the UK saw in January. But deaths have not risen nearly as much.
The low ratio is probably because of vaccines, which have proven highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, and deaths.
A UK study found that two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines were 88% and 67% effective, respectively, at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 from the Delta variant – the UK’s dominant strain.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have both said that lab tests suggest their vaccines are also highly effective against Delta, though peer-reviewed research on those shots’ real-world effectiveness in the face of Delta has not yet been published.
Overall, the effectiveness of widespread vaccination is evident in the UK’s shrinking ratio of deaths to cases over time. In early February, just 1% of the UK population was fully vaccinated, and about 25% of the population had received one dose. During that time, the UK counted an average of five deaths for every 100 new cases.
Now that the UK is 71.8% vaccinated against COVID-19 – and 88.4% of people have received at least one dose – the death-to-cases ratio is nearly zero.
The UK’s daily coronavirus cases are falling almost quickly as they rose earlier this summer.
During the first two weeks of July, average daily cases there jumped 80%, peaking at nearly 55,000 on July 17. That’s close to the levels recorded during the worst days of the UK’s winter outbreak, when vaccines weren’t yet widely available.
But cases have dropped dramatically in the last week, down to just 25,000 cases on Monday, as shown in the chart below.
UK COVID-19 cases over the last month
Experts, though surprised, have a few theories as to what happened. A recent decline in testing could be one factor: The UK administered 9% fewer tests this week than it did three weeks prior, and testing overall has declined since mid-March.
“A lot of the people who are becoming symptomatic are becoming more mildly symptomatic because they’re younger people or they’re people who have been vaccinated,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC on Monday. “So those people aren’t presenting for testing.”
But a likelier explanation, according to other experts, is a combination of warm weather – which encourages people to spend less time indoors – and fewer public gatherings.
The Euro 2020 soccer championship, which ended two weeks ago, may have temporarily driven up UK cases, since the semifinals were held at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 6 and 7, then the finals on July 11. Many schools also closed for summer holidays last week.
Additionally, the recent spike in cases may have prompted more people to self-isolate, either to avoid getting sick or because they had known exposure to someone with COVID-19.
The UK’s promising trajectory may bode well for the US
There’s no guarantee that the UK’s downward case trend will last, however, especially since most social distancing restrictions lifted on July 19. Since then, venues like restaurants, clubs, and festivals have reopened. Official case numbers generally reflect the spread of infections two weeks prior, due to the virus’ incubation period and the time it takes to get tested, get results, and see those results reported to health authorities.
“Today’s figures do not of course include any impact of last Monday’s end of restrictions,” Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC. “It will not be until about next Friday before the data includes the impact of this change.”
So it’s possible that case totals will tick up again starting next week. Still, vaccines should continue to prevent fully immunized people from becoming severely ill. New research suggests that two doses of Pfizer’s or AstraZeneca’s vaccine are 88% and 67% effective, respectively, at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 from the Delta variant – the UK’s dominant strain.
The UK’s promising trajectory may even bode well for other highly vaccinated counties like the US, where cases are surging.
“If the UK is turning the corner, it’s a pretty good indication that maybe we’re further into this than we think,” Gottlieb told CNBC. “Maybe we’re two or three weeks away from starting to see our own plateau here in the United States.”
The average UK investor plans to increase their investments by 19% each month as COVID-19 restrictions in the country come to an end, extending the retail trading boom that originated during the pandemic, a Barclays Smart Investor survey found.
Across all age groups, only 6% of the roughly 2,000 people surveyed, said they planned to cut how much they invest each month. They cited the return of “normality” and the increased spending on activities such as holidays, meals out and weekend trips.
In contrast, around 50% said they would spend less on such activities to support their investing habits.
“The prediction that many will continue, or increase, the amount they invest going forward is likely driven by a rise in lockdown savings, with the ONS reporting that UK household savings are nearing an all-time high.” Clare Francis, director of Barclays Smart Investor said.
76% of those surveyed said they would maintain their investing routine and as few as 4% of those who began investing during the pandemic said they would stop once restrictions in the UK were lifted.
“Today’s findings show just how much the pandemic has changed our approach to saving and investing. As new investors flocked to the stock market last year, it was easy to assume that it was just a lockdown hobby, and that many would go back to their old spending habits when the world re-opened.” Francis said.
Retail trading apps and platforms like Robinhood and eToro, which allow individuals to invest in stocks and digital assets like crypto currencies via their phones or laptops, saw a surge in popularity throughout the pandemic.
Robinhood, which makes its stock-market debut this week, however noted a slowdown of activity on its platform in the second quarter of this year, which was when lockdown restrictions in many countries eased. In its updated prospectus published on Monday, the company said it expected revenue to drop in the three months to September 30 because of the decline in trading activity.
The US is far removed from the deadliest point in its coronavirus outbreak: The country reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus deaths in January, compared with less than 275 daily deaths, on average, in the past week.
But average daily deaths surged 22% in the past seven days, following a record low of 30 deaths on July 11. In the past two weeks, average daily deaths rose 33%.
The vast majority these deaths are among unvaccinated Americans: Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC earlier this month that unvaccinated people represented more than 99% of recent coronavirus deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported Friday that more than 97% of people entering hospitals with symptomatic COVID-19 hadn’t received shots.
“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” Walensky said.
But disease experts worry that allowing the virus to spread among unvaccinated people could give it more opportunities to mutate. That could pose a long-term risk for vaccinated people, too. Already, the Delta variant – now the dominant strain in the US – appears to be more transmissible than any other version of the virus detected so far.
“The worst-case scenario is if Delta mutates into something completely different, a completely different animal, and then our current vaccines are even less effective or ineffective,” Vivek Cherian, an internal-medicine physician in Baltimore, told Insider last month.
Experts also worry that increased transmission could result in more severe breakthrough infections – cases of COVID-19 diagnosed at least two weeks after someone is fully vaccinated – among older people or those who are immunocompromised, since vaccines may already be less effective among these groups.
People over 65 represent about 75% of breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death, according to the CDC.
The UK offers insight into what to expect in the US
Disease experts worry that the US could soon follow in the footsteps of the UK, where average deaths have more than doubled in the past two weeks, from 17 to 40 a day. The UK’s average hospitalizations have also increased about 60% during that time, from about 380 to 615 a day.
That’s despite the fact that nearly 70% of UK residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
The country is now administering as many daily vaccine doses as it was in late December, when vaccines were available only to healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities. Just 384,000 daily doses were given out on average over the past week.
Some Americans, particularly in rural counties, may still struggle to access shots, while others can’t afford to take time off work to get vaccinated. But, for the most part, widespread vaccine hesitancy has slowed down vaccination rates.
About 18% of adults surveyed in a recent YouGov poll said they didn’t plan to get vaccinated, while 11% said they were unsure. These rates were significantly higher among Republicans and people in the Midwest and South.
Most vaccine-hesitant people in the survey said they were worried about side effects from coronavirus shots – though studies have shown that vaccine side effects are generally mild and fleeting. The vast majority of them also said they believed that the threat of the virus was exaggerated for political reasons.
Lifting mask and social-distancing mandates could delay herd immunity
Despite lagging vaccination rates, most US states have lifted mask and social-distancing mandates. In states such as Delaware, Florida, Missouri, and South Carolina, masks are recommended but not required for unvaccinated people.
Some disease experts said removing these restrictions too soon could send the wrong message about the state of the pandemic.
“The concern is if you’re on the fence, and then you go outside and you see, ‘Hey, things are back to normal,’ that may decrease the chance of you wanting to even get vaccinated,” Cherian said.
For now, experts are hopeful that the US can still vaccinate at least 70 to 85% of its population – a threshold that may allow the country to reach herd immunity. But a new variant that evades protection from vaccines or prior infection could push that goal even further from view, so public-health officials remain determined to vaccinate more Americans as quickly as possible.
“If you get to that situation, then you essentially get us back to a level” that we were in before March 2020, Cherian said, adding: “That’s just not a place that you want to be.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is delaying lifting COVID-19 restrictions until more people get vaccinated against the virus.
He said at a press briefing on Monday that the restrictions will be in place until at least July 19. The restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21, but reopening has now been pushed back by four weeks.
“By Monday the 19 of July we will aim to have double jabbed two-thirds of the adult population,” Johnson said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Thursday said that he missed former President Donald Trump and derided President Joe Biden’s pre-G7 summit meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “all fluff and happy talk.”
During an appearance on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle,” Graham laced into Biden, alleging that the president is not pushing back forcefully against China and Russia.
“We’ve had two cyberattacks on our economy coming from Russian territory, by Russian organizations I think are given a pass by the Russian government,” he said. “They are probably working together, to be honest with you.”
He added: “Is Biden asking the Europeans to do anything to push back against Russian cyberterrorism? Is he even talking about what should we do to rein China in? No. Of course, this is just all fluff and happy talk. I miss Mr. Trump.”
Graham has increasingly raised questions about the coronavirus possibly emanating from a lab in Wuhan, a claim that China has refuted.
“There is no doubt in my mind the combination of prominent scientists coming out strongly against the lab leak theory, along with officials from the State Department shutting down additional inquiries, ended up being two of the most consequential events in the 2020 election cycle,” he wrote in a Fox News op-ed. “Had they given credence to this charge, the whole tenor, tone and focus of the 2020 election would have turned on a dime.”
During his Fox interview, Graham then alleged that bad actors were fearful of Trump.
“Let’s just be honest. The bad guys were afraid of Trump,” he said. “Who’s afraid of Biden? The Europeans are talking about doing a trade deal with China as China dismantles Hong Kong’s democracy and is engaging in genocide against the Uyghurs. So, this just blows my mind.
He added: “They’re talking about going back into the Iranian nuclear deal even though Iran hasn’t changed its behavior at all. I can tell you one thing, the Israelis miss a stronger American president.”
The G7 summit began in Cornwall, a county in southwest England, on Friday – the event is Biden’s first overseas diplomatic summit since he assumed the presidency in January.
Biden will conduct talks with the leaders of the group, which in addition to the United Kingdom includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
During Biden’s pre-summit talk with Johnson, where the president gifted the prime minister a custom touring bicycle and helmet, the two men also discussed climate change and cyberattacks.
Graham, who was reelected to his fourth term last year, has evolved from a Trump critic to a staunch ally.
Last month, the senator said that was “impossible” for the GOP to move on without Trump as its leader and stated that party members who criticized the former president would “wind up getting erased.”
The global image of the United States has vastly improved since President Joe Biden took office compared to all-time low ratings under former President Donald Trump’s leadership, new data released by Pew Research Center on Thursday shows.
Pew Research Center polled people in 16 countries and the results show a major shift in public attitudes after Trump left the White House.
The US’ average favorability rating increased by 28 percentage points this year – one of the biggest spikes on record since Pew started polling more than two decades ago. The number jumped from 34% in 2020 to 62% this year.
In six countries – France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada – positive opinions of the US grew by at least 25 percentage points, returning to the high ratings seen during the Obama era.
Overall trust in the US president within the international community hit historic lows under Trump. The Pew study showed that with Biden, the numbers have rebounded to pre-Trump levels.
Around 75% of people surveyed expressed confidence in Biden to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs. A year ago, only 17% said the same for Trump.
Public confidence was particularly high among the US’ European allies. In Germany, 78% of respondents expressed confidence in Biden as a leader compared to just 10% who said so about Trump last year.
Biden was sworn in after a tumultuous year in which the US faced a raging pandemic, weakened economy, and a chaotic 2020 presidential election, leading to an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.
Pew surveyed 16,254 adults from March 12 to May 26, 2021.
Countries that have vaccinated more than a third of their populations are now taking huge leaps toward normal life.
The UK plans to remove all social distancing restrictions by June 21 now that nearly half its population has received shots. On April 30, the nation will experiment with its first nightclub opening in more than a year: A Liverpool warehouse is set to host 3,000 club-goers who test negative for the virus.
US vaccinations trail closely behind – around 40% of the country has received at least one vaccine dose so far. For the most part, businesses are already open in all 50 states, and 13 states have recently lifted their mask mandates.
To some extent, rolling back restrictions is a natural test of whether vaccines prevent coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths outside clinical trials. But scientists worry that countries with large vaccine rollouts could be lulled into a false sense of security.
“The worst is probably behind us, but I don’t want to suggest that let’s now sit back, relax, and enjoy life, and it’s all going to be fine,” David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Insider. “We do still need to maintain some level of vigilance because if the virus has taught us one thing, it’s that it’s difficult to predict the future.”
Two factors, in particular, could hinder progress in the US and UK: the emergence of more contagious variants and vaccine skepticism.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that the US could see an additional 60,000 deaths by August 1 – assuming variants continue to spread and vaccinated people start to behave normally, forgoing masks and social distancing. Under this “worst-case scenario,” daily coronavirus cases could also plateau over the next four months.
A March 30 model from Imperial College London similarly estimates that the UK could see an additional 15,700 deaths by June if the country proceeds with its reopening plan.
The US and UK probably haven’t reached herd immunity yet
It’s not clear exactly what share of a nation’s population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity – the threshold beyond which the virus can’t pass easily from person to person – but experts generally estimate that it’s at least 70%.
Only one large country, Israel, is probably near that goal. Around 62% of Israel’s population has been vaccinated so far.
“It would be reasonable to say Israel right now has a very high level of population protection, probably not far from herd immunity,” Eyal Leshem, director at Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, told Insider.
Already, Israel’s cases have fallen 94% since it started vaccinating people in December – even as the country lifted lockdown restrictions. As of last Sunday, people in Israel don’t need to wear masks outdoors anymore and all primary school students can return to in-person learning.
“Despite mass gatherings, parties, meetings, there’s no increasing cases,” Leshem said.
But scientists warn that the US and UK likely haven’t crossed the herd immunity threshold yet.
While daily coronavirus cases are falling in the UK and have remained relatively flat in the US, experts worry that rolling back restrictions could reverse some of these gains.
“Part of the reason that we’re not seeing a spike is still that people are not just going back to the way things were before,” Dowdy said. “And if we remove that effect, we will start to see cases go back up right now.”
In the US, average daily cases are still comparable to those recorded last summer.
“We’re having between 60,000 and 70,000 new infections per day and it would really, I think, not be prudent at all to declare victory prematurely and pull back,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
New variants may pose a continued threat
Many scientists caution against lifting mask or social distancing guidelines before nations understand the full threat of coronavirus variants.
In Chile, for instance, 40% of the population has been vaccinated, but average daily coronavirus cases there have more than doubled in the last two months. Scientists attribute this surge, in part, to the spread of P.1 – a variant first discovered in Brazil that seems to partially evade immunity from vaccines or previous infectious.
Studies show that vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson protect people from B.1.1.7 – now the dominant strain in the US – but are less effective against P.1 and B.1.351 (a variant first identified in South Africa). AstraZeneca’s vaccine – which has been authorized in more than 130 countries, including the UK – seems to protect people from B.1.1.7 and P.1, but is less effective against B.1.351.
Scientists have also spotted variants in California that appear to be more transmissible than the virus’ original strain and could potentially resist antibodies from vaccines, according to a new study.
More contagious variants could make herd immunity a moving target, Rahul Subramanian, a data scientist at the University of Chicago, told Insider.
“Let’s say we reach herd immunity next year – it may need to be a constant battle,” he said. “You have to keep maintaining herd immunity in the population by continuously getting people vaccinated.”
Vaccine skepticism could allow coronavirus infections to lurk
But maintaining the current rate of vaccinations is going to be a challenge, Dowdy added.
“The people who haven’t been vaccinated by now generally are, in many cases, people who don’t want to be vaccinated or have some concerns about being vaccinated,” he said.
A recent poll from Monmouth University found that 1 in 5 Americans still aren’t willing to get a coronavirus vaccine. That’s compared to three-quarters of people in the UK who say they’re “very likely” to get vaccinated, according to a February Oxford University survey.
If unvaccinated people don’t social distance or wear masks, the nations could ultimately struggle to prevent future outbreaks.
“You can vaccinate 50% of the population, but if it’s the wrong 50% – the 50% who are at the lowest risk of getting COVID to start with – then it doesn’t mean that you magically then cross a threshold,” Dowdy said. “The key is to get those numbers high enough so that even in the populations that are at highest risk of getting infection, you’re having enough vaccination to make a difference.”
For now, at least half the people in the US and UK still haven’t had their shots. And it could be several months, at the earliest, before coronavirus vaccines are authorized for children – which make up roughly 20% of the populations in the UK and US.
Until then, scientists said, it’s important to maintain mask and social distancing guidelines.
“Getting people vaccinated is a gradual process,” Dowdy said, “so we need to also make reopening a gradual process, too.”
The holiday season is nearly upon us. But there’s speculation about whether people in the UK will be able to travel abroad due to the increased worry of coronavirus variants spreading and cases rising.
This uncertainty, along with COVID-19 restrictions, is turning more people towards domestic holidays to visit the British coastline, country parks and smaller towns and cities.
In accordance with UK government guidelines, hotels, bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and other shared accommodation in England are allowed to open on May 17. This is the same date that international travel can continue.
While self-contained accommodation, which requires no shared facilities between guests, can reopen on April 12.
Insider spoke to a range of hotels, holiday parks and B&Bs, which are preparing for guests to come back and how their facilities will be run differently.
Travelodge, an independent UK chain hotel, which has more than 570 hotels across the UK, currently only allows keyworkers and those who need to travel for work to stay in its hotels, a spokesperson told Insider.
When asked if Travelodge will make the vaccine mandatory for guests, the spokesperson said: “We will continue to stringently follow government guidelines and policy in regards to operating in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Currently, the government does not require hotel guests to be vaccinated.
The situation is similar in holiday parks. Centre Parcs, which has five short-break holiday villages across the UK, will open on April 12 and have the same COVID-19 safety measures it had in place last year, spokesperson Simon Kay told Insider.
“In line with government guidelines we will not be requiring guests to have been vaccinated,” he said.
Haven Holidays, another chain of holiday parks in the UK, told Insider it’s planning to reopen all of its locations on April 12. A company spokesperson said the government haven’t sent Haven any details about COVID-19 passports and declined to comment on the implementation of them.
Hazelwood Farm B&B in York, in northern England, will also be carrying on with coronavirus measures. The owner, Annette McAnespie described making the vaccine mandatory as a “Catch 22 situation” and could be “construed as discriminatory.”
“I am lucky in that most of my gorgeous guests are retirement age so the stats are that most of them would have chosen to have had the vaccine and would have had their first jab, if not their second one too, by the time I can reopen,” McAnespie said.
At the other end of the country, the Penellen B&B, based in Cornwall – a popular holiday destination in south-west England – will open on May 17th with COVID-19 practices that were in place last year.
Paul and Barbara Goldingay, owners of The Penellen, told Insider that they are not making the vaccine mandatory because it would be too difficult to police.
Face masks stay on and social distancing remains
Travelodge said, like many other chain hotels, its safety measures include wearing face masks indoors, social distancing, contactless payment and checkout, and no housekeeping teams in guests’ rooms during their stay.
The Penellen and Hazelwood Farm’s coronavirus measures both include wearing face masks.
McAnespie is using two out of the three rooms available on Hazelwood Farm. She plans to steam-clean the curtains and remove cushions from the bedrooms as part of the B&B’s coronavirus policy. She told Insider she hopes to see the back of restrictions in September.
Center Parcs has had a surge in bookings recently, especially from the summer onwards, according to Kay.
COVID-19 safety measures in its holiday parks include fewer guests on-site, wearing face masks where necessary, social distancing in all areas including on beaches and a frequent and improved cleaning regime in the villages.
Haven Holidays, which owns 40 parks across the UK, will bring back the Clean and Safe Charter that it introduced in July. This includes a contactless check-in process, social-distancing measures in all public places, and cleaning teams in the parks.
Eating and dining in accommodation
Guests staying in Travelodge hotels won’t be able to dine in the restaurants or bars until June 21, when the rest of hospitality is allowed to open, per the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Hazelwood Farm B&B in York isn’t offering its usual breakfast buffet. McAnespie told Insider guests’ cold breakfast orders will be taken the evening before and hot breakfast orders will be taken the same morning with the waitress, Nettie, standing at a distance.
She said the B&B will try to stagger breakfast times for the three rooms as there are only two tables in the dining room with the option to also sit outside. Continental breakfast can also be delivered to the room, as well as any other takeaways from local pubs in the area, McAnespie added.
The Penellen said it will also be serving guests at the table, rather than offering a buffet service.
Holidays parks such as Center Parcs and Haven Holidays offer self-catered accommodation so guests can cook for themselves.
Other restrictions in place
Center Parcs’ Book with Confidence guarantee offers guests free cancellation and a full refund within six weeks of the arrival date, if they decide to no longer go on holiday to the village. They can also change the dates of their stay.
“It is clear that people want reassurance about the flexibility to cancel or change dates,” said Kay.
As part of Haven’s Caravan Cleanliness Guarantee, a specialist team member checks each holiday home after its been disinfected using virus-killing products and seals up the door. Guests are entitled to a full refund if the holiday home isn’t cleaned to its standards, the company said in a statement to Insider.
Similar to Center Parcs, the company’s Coronavirus Book with Confidence Guarantee means guests can cancel their booking between three and 28 days prior to arrival at no cost and be fully refunded, Haven said.
Paul and Barbara from The Penellen said the majority of bookings for this year are rescheduled from last year.
Their “main worry is people from the UK going on holiday overseas and then returning carrying a new variant,” they said.
“In our opinion, all borders should be closed for non-essential travel for the time being,” they added.
Uber announced Tuesday it will reclassify drivers in the United Kingdom as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, paid vacation, pensions, and additional protection under the country’s labor laws.
In a statement, Uber told Insider the move will impact more than 70,000 drivers, and follows a recent unanimous Supreme Court decision that determined drivers should be classified as workers.
Uber initially downplayed the ruling, saying it “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” though shares of Uber dropped as much as 2% following the ruling.
With Tuesday’s announcement, Uber has opted to reclassify all UK drivers rather than fight legal battles with individual drivers about whether the court’s ruling would apply to them.
“Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives,” Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told Insider in a statement.
The move is a major shift for Uber, which has aggressively fought rulings by courts and regulators in the US that have determined drivers to be employees as opposed to contractors. In California, Uber spent at least $30 million persuading voters to pass Proposition 22, a law it co-authored that carved out an exemption from state labor laws to allow rideshare and food delivery drivers to be treated as contractors.
Unlike American law, which defines workers as employees or contractors, UK law has an additional “worker” category, which entitles workers to receive the minimum wage, paid vacation, rest breaks, and protections against illegal discrimination, retaliation for whistleblowing, and wage theft. That classification falls short of guaranteeing benefits like parental leave and severance to which full employees are entitled.
Uber said the UK minimum wage, which is slightly above $12, will serve as an “earnings floor, not an earnings ceiling” after accounting for roughly 62 cents in per-mile expenses, but that drivers won’t be paid for the time they spend waiting for a ride – which some researchers have found accounts for as much as 33% of drivers’ work.
Uber also said it will pay drivers around 12% of their earnings as vacation pay every two weeks and enroll them in a pension plan to which Uber will also contribute.
Labor advocates voiced their support for the move and the court ruling that proceeded it.
“Dear America … see what happens when a government lays it down? Is Uber leaving? No, they’re actually doing right by their workforce in the UK. Our drivers deserve this too. Why would an American company short change American workers? Because we let them!” tweeted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of AB-5, the state labor law that Uber sought an exemption from by pushing Prop 22.