Tens of thousands in gig economy could benefit from Uber ruling

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Nov 13, 2017
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Uber maintains that its drivers are independent contractors and that last week’s ruling otherwise was flawed

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Tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy have won a ground-breaking ruling that they are entitled to employment rights such as holiday pay, breaks and a minimum wage.

Unions hailed the “landmark decision” by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in London in a test case brought by two Uber taxi drivers who argued that they were workers rather than self-employed. Uber, the taxi-hailing app, immediately announced it would seek to appeal against the finding which could cost it millions of pounds for its 50,000 UK drivers.

Two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, won an employment tribunal case arguing that they were workers last year. Uber challenged that decision, maintaining that its drivers were independent contractors and that most of its drivers valued the flexibility that the company provided. However, on Friday the EAT ruled that the drivers are entitled to holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks.

Judge Jennifer Eady, QC, the appeals tribunal judge, said: “I am satisfied the ET [employment tribunal] did not err either in its approach or in its conclusions.” The tribunal was entitled, she added, to conclude on the “factual reality of the situation that there was a contract between ULL [Uber London Ltd] and the drivers by which the drivers personally undertook work for ULL as part of its business of providing transportation services to passengers in the London area”.

The American company is also challenging a Transport for London ruling that its licence to operate in the capital should be revoked.

Tom Elvidge, Uber UK’s acting general manager, said: “Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. The tribunal relies on the assertion that drivers are required to take 80 per cent of trips sent to them when logged into the app. As drivers who use Uber know, this has never been the case in the UK.

“Over the last year we have made a number of changes to our app to give drivers even more control. We’ve also invested in things like access to illness and injury cover and we’ll keep introducing changes to make driving with Uber even better.”

Unions hailed the ruling. Maria Ludkin, the GMB’s legal director, said: “This landmark decision is a yet more vindication of GMB’s campaign to ensure drivers are given the rights they are entitled to and that the public, drivers and passengers are kept safe.”

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