Written by: Keith Tully
Reviewed: Friday 28th October, 2016
An employment tribunal in London has ruled that Uber drivers are effectively employed by the American car-hailing company and should not be considered self-employed contractors working for themselves.
Uber has said it intends to appeal the ruling and maintains that the people who drive the vehicles hailed via its mobile apps are in fact its “partners” and not its employees.
Expectations are that the London Central Employment Tribunal’s recent ruling could have a significant impact on the ways in which Uber runs its operations and structures its business model in the UK.
As far as Uber drivers are concerned, the decision on whether or not they should be regarded as employees is potentially very significant indeed because it could make them entitled to receive sick pay, holiday pay and at least minimum wage for their work.
To date, Uber has been able to maintain that its drivers are self-employed and therefore not entitled to holiday pay or benefits.
There are roughly 40,000 Uber drivers working in the UK, with millions of journeys being made with the help of its services every month around the country.
“The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want,” said Jo Bertram, Uber UK’s general manager, in response to the recent ruling.
Bertram added that, as far as Uber is concerned, the London employment tribunal only has relevance to the two individuals who brought the case.
However, there is potential for the ruling to have a major impact on shaping the development of employment rights within the context of the so-called ‘gig’ economy, whereby individuals provide on-demand services on behalf of large companies without being considered their employees.
Nigel Mackay from the law firm Leigh Day who represented the Uber drivers in the recent tribunal said in a statement: “We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights.
“Uber drivers often work very long hours just to earn enough to cover their basic living costs. It is the work carried out by these drivers that has allowed Uber to become the multi-billion-dollar global corporation it is.”