How Much Uber Eats Employees Really Make

The question of how much Uber Eats employees make is a complicated one. It starts with the term "employee," which sounds like a simple term to describe any worker. But in Uber Eats's case, it's a lot thornier than that. Like other participants in the gig economy, people who deliver food for Uber Eats are classified not as employees, but independent contractors (via The Counter). As The Counter explains, independent contractors (like Uber Eats drivers) don't get worker's comp or unemployment insurance, nor are they subject to employee-centric labor protections like minimum wage.

In recent years, there's been increased press coverage, legal action, and legislation around the employee versus independent contractor debate, particularly concerning workers for places like Uber Eats. In January 2021, The Counter reported that the Trump administration passed a law making it harder for gig workers to be re-classified as employees. It comes on the heels of other laws like California's Proposition 22, an Uber-backed bill that ensured Uber's workers would remain contractors, not employees (via Ballotpedia). Prop 22 used tactics some claim to be deceptive, such as displaying a message supporting the ballot measure anytime an Uber driver and rider opened their app (via The Verge).

Working for Uber Eats can be a gamble

According to Complete Payroll, the way Uber Eats drivers earn money is more multifaceted than a simple hourly or tipped wage: There's a pickup fee, a fee based on how far the food must travel, a drop-off fee, and hopefully, tips. If drivers are working during a "promotion boost," Complete Payroll explains they can make extra, in a process similar to Uber's surge pricing. Then, Uber takes 25 percent of the total. Because of this formula, Uber Eats earnings can vary wildly.

The website Ridester examined data from sources like Glassdoor and found that Uber Eats drivers commonly make less than minimum wage, with some earning as little as $3.50 for a delivery. Complete Payroll says a delivery driver makes, on average, $12.25 an hour, but that's an estimate. Ridester points out that drivers are also responsible for work-related expenses, like gas and car or bike maintenance costs, due to their non-employee status.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Uber Eats has only grown. The New York Times reports their food delivery orders have shot up 128 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to that time in 2019, totaling $1.35 billion in revenue. Delivery drivers speaking to the Columbus Dispatch say food orders have indeed increased, but pay (and tips) remain low.