HR · 31 October 2018

Uber returns to court appealing driver rights to paid holiday and minimum wage

Uber has claimed the tribunal misunderstood the way its app operates

In what could fundamentally change Britain’s gig economy, on-demand taxi app Uber is contesting an employment tribunal which ruled its “self-employed” drivers should be treated as regular workers.

Over Tuesday and Wednesday, the Court of Appeal will hear Uber’s argument that the tribunal “fundamentally misunderstood” how the company operates.

The 2016 ruling

The legal battle began in October 2016 when two former Uber drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, successfully won an employment tribunal on the grounds that they were Uber employees, not self-employed drivers.

Uber lost a subsequent appeal in November 2017, when the tribunal decided any driver who had the app turned on had activated a “worker’s” contract.

The case is now being heard at the Court of Appeal, while a final part of the appeal process would be heard at the Supreme Court.

According to legal firm Leigh Day, which began legal action against Uber with 25 members of the GMB union, the result of the appeal could have consequences for many other businesses using a “gig” model of employment.

Nigel Mackay, partner at Leigh Day, said: “This appeal is of great significance not only to Uber drivers but also to millions of other workers in the gig economy and we hope that this can now bring this matter to a conclusion for the benefit of all workers.”

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What Uber says

Around 60,000 licenced drivers are now active across the UK, according to Uber, which also claims it has made changes to its model to give drivers more control over how they operate. The app also cited an Oxford University report which found that drivers make more than the London Living Wage.

“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. We believe the Employment Appeal Tribunal last year fundamentally misunderstood how we operate,” an Uber spokesperson said

“For example, they relied on the assertion that drivers are required to take 80% of trips sent to them when logged into the app, which has never been the case in the UK.”

Uber should “admit defeat”

However, GMB warned Uber to give up its appeal.

Commenting on the appeal, Sue Harris, legal director at GMB, said: “While the company are wasting money losing appeal after appeal, their drivers are up to £18,000 out of pocket for the last two years alone (based on a 40-hour week).

“That’s thousands of drivers struggling to pay their rent, or feed their families.”

A protest led by the IWGB union took place yesterday, fighting to raise awareness for all workers in the gig economy.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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