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Bolt faces worker benefits backlash from 1,600 UK drivers

Bolt drivers

Mobility platform Bolt is facing backlash from over 1,600 UK drivers over claims they are owed holiday and minimum wage compensation in a legal case that echoes the one lost by ride-hailing rival Uber.

Bolt drivers say they should not be categorised as self-employed contractors, a status that affords fewer rights than those classified as ‘workers’.

The Bolt drivers are being represented by the law firm Leigh Day, which has submitted a letter to the government workplace dispute body Acas.

While this is just the first stage of the legal process, the case could see Tallinn, Estonia-headquartered Bolt forced to pay drivers retrospectively and set money aside for future wage and holiday payments.

Charlotte Pettman, solicitor, Leigh Day told the Guardian: “Leigh Day is confident that Bolt drivers should be given worker status and the rights this affords. Already, the supreme court, the highest court in the UK, has ruled in favour of Uber drivers in their workers’ rights claims.

“This should be a clear warning to other companies, with similar business models, that they cannot continue to short-change their drivers.”

In 2021, Uber lost a landmark case in the Supreme Court that forced the US company to classify its drivers as workers.

Uber has since paid out more than £150m in compensation to its drivers and reclassified them as workers.

A Bolt spokesperson told UKTN: “The Supreme Court ruling related to Uber’s operating model in 2016, which is different to our own. Bolt makes no comment on the operating models of our competitors and complies with applicable laws and regulations specific to our business.”

The spokesperson added: “Bolt’s operating model means drivers receive higher earnings per trip and benefit from total flexibility. Our extensive driver engagement shows time and again this model is what the vast majority of our drivers want. We operate in a highly competitive market to attract drivers so it is in our interests to operate a model that works best for them; if not, they will go elsewhere.”

Bolt offers ride-hailing, scooter hire, car rental, food delivery and grocery delivery. Its services are available in many cities across the UK.

It comes after Bolt raised €628m at the start of the year and €600m last August, which put the firm at a valuation of more than €4bn. To date, Bolt has total funding of $2bn (£1.8bn).

Earlier this year Uber drivers went on strike after 124,000 documents were leaked, detailing efforts to lobby British politicians.