"Monumental Victory" for Uber Drivers in Legal Battle against Employer.

Uber is a Taxi-hailing app, which allows the passenger to call for a car using a smartphone running the Uber app. An Uber driver is then called to the location and takes the passenger to their destination. The company which is based San Francisco began in 2008 has been seen by many as controversial because Uber drivers do not operate with a taxi licence and are not regulated in the same strict way as taxi drivers by any authorities. Uber drivers, are also considered as self-employed by the Company and were therefore not entitled to the rights attributed to 'workers'

This week the company have found themselves in the news again following the Employment Tribunal decision over its drivers.

The claim itself related to two specific Uber drivers who brought a claim to the UK Employment Tribunal challenging the fact that they were treated as self-employed by Uber. The drivers wanted to be entitled to the national living wage, statutory annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks, a maximum working week of 48 hours with rest breaks and protection under whistleblowing legislation. The two drivers brought their claim on behalf of a group of 19 Uber drivers who argued they worked for Uber not for themselves.

The ruling from the Employment Tribunal was clear; Uber drivers were workers within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The decision has been hailed as a "monumental victory" for the 40,000 drivers in England and Wales. The Employment Tribunal's ruling stated "the notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform is to our mind faintly ridiculous".

Many have called this the "tip of the iceberg" as it is not uncommon in the UK for workers to be classed as self-employed in order for employers to avoid paying national minimum wage or allowing workers rest breaks. A large proportion of the UK workforce are in unsecured job roles with an uncertainty surrounding their status as a worker. This so called "sham self-employment" has sparked a vicious debate in the legal sphere over whether legislation should be amended to reflect this loophole.

The representative for the Uber drivers stated the decision would "not just impact the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them rights to which they are entitled".

It is a virtual certainty that this decision will be appealed, potentially up until the Supreme Court. The other things that are certain from this decision is:

  • Any Uber driver should bring a tribunal claim on the assumption that they are workers; and
  • There is an increased chance that other gig economy companies will face claims from contractors that they should have worker status.

(A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun.- http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/gig-economy)

If you need any further information on your rights as a worker or employee, or if you believe you are entitled to worker's rights despite your employer treating you as self-employed, please contact us on 01603 693500, email us using 'Make an enquiry' form, or during offices hours use the 'live chat' facility. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.

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