The “gig economy” is one of the buzzwords of 2018. It’s a way of describing a way of working whereby self-employed people pick up casual jobs or “gigs”, with the freedom to work as often or little as they wish. Some people do this sort of gig work full time, others combine it with more conventional full-time work or study. One of the best-known gig economy companies is Uber, the private hire taxi company. But it’s not as simple as signing up on a company website, picking up the car keys and heading off for your first pick-up.
All private hire drivers have to be licenced by their local council, or Transport for London depending where they’re going to be operating. There’s no separate driving test for being a taxi driver, but there is a requirement to have held a full UK driving licence for at least a year. You won’t be able to apply for a taxi licence with a driving licence issued in another country, so even if you’ve been driving for years you might have to retake both a theory and practical driving test here in the UK and wait for a year before working as a taxi driver.
Right to Live and Work
Even though many taxi drivers are self-employed, you’ll still need to meet the requirements for working legally here in the UK. For people from the European Union, this is straightforward and you’ll just have to show your passport as proof. If you’re from outside the EU, then as long as you have the correct stamps in your passport or a work visa, then it won’t be an issue either. If your circumstances are unusual, then seek legal advice before applying for work, or paying application fees for a licence which you’re not eligible for.
Each local council sets its own fees for issuing taxi or private hire licences. Search your local Council website for details of current charges, which usually change annually. You have to pay your fees to the council area where you’re going to be operating as a taxi or private hire driver, which may or may not be the same as your home area. The fee includes both issuing your licence, and additional checks which are needed on people applying for licences. This will involve an enhanced DBS check to ensure that people with extensive criminal records are barred from this sort of work. A medical examination may also apply in some areas.
Tax and Insurance
People who are working in the gig economy have to register as self-employed with HMRC and complete an annual self-assessment tax form. There’s lots of guidance about paperwork and record keeping from both HMRC and small business associations if you’re not sure where to start. You’ll also have to make sure that your car is properly insured for use as a private hire vehicle, which is more expensive than standard car insurance. It’s also your responsibility to keep up with maintenance and ensuring your car is roadworthy.