Uber rival Bolt faces legal action regarding minimum wage and employee rights

A minicab app bidding to topple Uber in London is facing legal action over claims it underpaid the minimum wage – a move also intended to force it to provide drivers with workers’ rights.

Andrei Donisa is bringing a test case against Bolt after it expelled him from its platform for refusing to take enough fares. Bolt treats its 30,000 drivers as self-employed and Donisa claims its behaviour runs contrary to its claim to hold “high ethical principles”.

Bolt, which was set up in Estonia, launched in the UK capital last summer after Uber was stripped of its licence by Transport for London in November because drivers had faked their identity on the firm’s app. While Uber appeals that decision it continues to trade. It is also challenging a separate appeal court ruling that its drivers should be treated as workers rather than self-employed.

Donisa said he was blocked from using the app by Bolt on the grounds that his acceptance rate for rides was too low even though there were no agreed minimum hours with the company. He said he would only decline jobs which were too short and far away to justify the journey or when the client had a very low rating, suggesting they might be a safety risk.

“Bolt said it was ethical but when it comes to drivers’ rights, it’s worse than Uber,” Donisa said. “We get no sick pay, no holiday pay, no guaranteed minimum wage. The one right they claim to give us is the right to choose how we work and when I exercised that right, I was punished and dismissed by Bolt. We need to take a stand on this.”

The employment tribunal case is being backed by Donisa’s trade union, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain. It has previously won worker status cases with members working for firms including Addison Lee and Uber.

Bolt operates a system that penalises drivers who accept less than 50% of the fares offered to them, with repeated infractions attracting longer bans which range from 24 hours to 10 years.

Donisa’s claim argues that Bolt “highly controlled” its drivers. It knows where drivers are when they are logged on, decides what jobs to offer them and monitors how long they are driving. It also sets the fare and handles the money.

He said he typically earned £160 a week from Bolt, topping up earnings of £580 from Uber. He ran up expenses of £330, and so he claims he was paid less than the minimum wage of £8.21 per hour.

A spokesperson for Bolt said: “A high-quality, reliable service is critically important. Happy passengers ultimately lead to more money for our drivers as they get more business with Bolt at lower commission rates than with any other platform.”