Uber has introduced a cap on how many hours its drivers in the UK can work after criticism that long shifts are putting passengers at risk.

Drivers who work for 10 hours will be locked out of the app for a six-hour break, the ride-hailing app said. However the limit still allows drivers to work for far more than 60 hours a week.

Uber's self-employed model means drivers are not placed on shifts and can work as much or as little as they want, are paid by the job and must cover their own expenses including a fee to Uber, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Along with claims that drivers are underpaid, this has led to criticism that they are forced to work inhumane hours in order to make ends meet. Critics say the absence of any cap has also led to fraud, with multiple drivers able to share the same account around the clock despite only one having passed safety checks.

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The company's working practices are at the centre of the debate over the "gig economy" and have been under intense scrutiny in recent months. A tribunal recently ruled that drivers are workers, not self employed, threatening the app's business model.

Uber said last month that 8 per cent of drivers in the UK are logged into the app for more than 60 hours a week and 2.6 per cent for 70 hours of more, although they can be logged into the app and not on journeys, for example when taking a break. Under the changes, drivers would in theory be able to work for up to a maximum of 18 hours in one day.

It says it is introducing the changes after consulting with safety experts, who advised that an enforced lengthy break was better than a cap on how many hours that can be worked in a day or week.

Uber claimed the move was an industry first, and that taxi drivers and those at other minicab firms do not have a limit on how many hours they can work.

"While drivers only spend an average of 30 hours a week logged into our app, we want to do our part to ensure they don't drive tired," said Andrew Byrne, Uber's head of policy.

"On top of features like GPS tracking of every trip it's another example of how Uber uses technology to help enhance driver and passenger safety."

MP Rachel Reeves, the chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, who is leading an inquiry into gig economy working practices, said: "We received evidence of Uber drivers being logged in to the Uber app for more than 60 hours so we welcome the introduction of limits to driver hours.

"We look forward to seeing how this will work in practice, and hope other companies will quickly follow suit."

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