Uber Driver Sues for Covid Payouts From U.K. Government

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(Bloomberg) --

An Uber driver is asking London judges to force the U.K. government to extend its income-support program during the coronavirus crisis to self-employed workers, saying the most needy have been excluded.

Ahmad Adiatu argues that that the policy, which pays 80% of full-time workers’ salaries, hurts minorities and others at greater risk of infection. The U.K. Treasury opposes any expansion of the program, which was designed to stave off massive layoffs, saying any adjustments would increase the risk of fraud.

The U.K. has been the worst hit European country by the Covid-19 pandemic, with nearly 300,000 confirmed cases, and more than 41,000 deaths. The government has supported at least 11.5 million jobs through its plan, which focuses on furloughs, at a cost of 27 billion pounds ($34 billion) so far. Adiatu’s attorneys argued that the government didn’t properly assess how self-employed workers would be hurt by the rules.

The government “did not consider the exclusionary effect of its decisions, and the impact thereof on protected groups,” his attorneys said in a filing for Thursday’s hearing.

While Adiatu says he eventually got some government funds, the delay meant that most went to repaying his debts and covering his child support. He lost his private-hire vehicle license, and is still unemployed, according to his court filings.

Attorneys for the U.K. Treasury told the judges that the court should be restrained on intervening because of the additional stress on key workers that might come if changes are forced through.

The government’s “policies to address the pandemic were worked up in a matter of days, under huge pressure, in order to respond to an unprecedented public health and economic emergency,” the government said in its filing. “They involve enormously important macro-economic and macro-political judgments. It is difficult to conceive of circumstances where the margin of discretion available to the government should be wider.”

The judges said they will try to release a ruling Monday. Adiatu is in court along with the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which represents the self-employed. Uber Technologies Inc. isn’t party to the case.

The case is: Adiatu vs. HM Treasury, CO/1636/2020

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