Uber Drivers are not Self-Employed

MEDIA ROOM

A landmark ruling has been given by a UK employment tribunal in the Uber Drivers’ case. A ruling, which although may still go through appeal stages, is capable of giving a new direction to the gig economy. This arises from the fact that the Uber drivers are not considered to be self-employed, thus entitled to all rights prescribed by law for persons in employment.

Background

A number of Uber drivers challenged their position in a UK employment law tribunal. The drivers argued that they work for the San Francisco based firm, rather than for themselves.

Uber, on the other hand, argued that it was a technology firm not a transport business and that its drivers were independent self-employed contractors who could choose where and when they work.

The Ruling

In the ruling, the firm was accused of resorting to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology in its documentation.

It went on to say that ‘the notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 40,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous’.

One of the basis for this conclusion was that the drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers, they are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber’s terms.

The employment tribunal has ascertained that the drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the national living wage, to receive paid holiday and entitlement for sick pay together with all the other rights enshrined in employment legislation.

Impact

This case represents the first proper legal review of whether jobs in the gig economy really present a new paradigm of freedom and self-employment, or if in fact are simply a new technology ploy to deny employed workers ordinary employment rights and a national minimum wage.

One would expect an increase of judicial activism in this respect. To this effect, one should note that this coming November, the same employment tribunal will be hearing a similar case taken against courier firm City Sprint.

Further to this one would deduce that these cases are echoing concerns about the growth of insecure work.

Conclusive?

Following the ruling, Uber immediately held that it will be appealing. One must note that this is not the end of the process, as hearings from the employment law tribunal can move on to the employment appeal tribunal, which may then be followed by the court of appeal and the Supreme Court.

Our Conclusion

As a landmark judgement, this case is capable of bringing about consequences for other ‘platform’ firms. And one can safely state that the trend of firms taking on self-employed workers who engage with work through apps may have to change radically. To this effect, these firms may either have to change their business models, otherwise pass on the increased costs onto the customers.

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