Journalist, SHP Online

November 15, 2017

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Employment

Uber loses appeal over workers’ rights

Taxi app Uber has lost a bid to overturn a decision by a tribunal which had said its drivers deserved workers’ rights such as the minimum wage.

Uber has said it will appeal the decision, claiming drivers enjoy the flexibility of their work and are self-employed – entitling them in British law to only basic entitlements, such as health and safety.

A spokesman said the company had 14 days to submit its application and decide whether to apply to take the case to the Supreme Court, Britain’s top judicial body, following the decision at an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in central London, last week.

The main reason why drivers use Uber is because they value the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive. – Uber UK’s acting general manager, Tom Elvidge

The firm argued in September that its drivers operate in the same way as minicabs, or private hire vehicles, which sprung up in Britain more than 50 years ago.

The latest issue for Uber follows two drivers, who last year successfully argued at a British employment tribunal that Uber exerted significant control over them to provide an on-demand taxi service, and should grant them workers’ rights such as holiday entitlement and rest breaks.

That decision did not automatically apply to the app’s 50,000 drivers in Britain, but was seen as likely to prompt more claims.

Gig economy

Uber must play by the rules and stop denying its drivers basic rights at work. – Unite

Uber has faced regulatory and legal setbacks around the world amid opposition from traditional taxi services and concern among some regulators. It has been forced to quit several countries, such as Denmark and Hungary. In September TfL concluded the firm was not fit and proper to hold a London private hire operator licence, saying it took the decision to not renew the licence on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.

The employment tribunals could impact workers at thousands of companies including firms in the “gig economy”, where individuals work for multiple employers without a fixed contract, such as courier Deliveroo.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which backed the two drivers, said these companies were “choosing to deprive workers of their rights”.

“Today’s victory is further proof, as if any more was needed, that the law is clear and these companies are simply choosing to deprive workers of their rights,” said Jason Moyer-Lee, the IWGB’s general secretary.

Frances O’Grady said: “Uber should throw in the towel and accept today’s judgement. No company, however big or well connected, is above the law.

“Uber must play by the rules and stop denying its drivers basic rights at work.

“This ruling should put gig economy employers on notice. Unions will expose nasty schemes that try and cheat workers out of the minimum wage and holiday pay.

“Sham self-employment exploits people and scams the taxman. The Uber drivers’ union GMB deserve huge credit for their work on this case.”

Number of changes

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% 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.”

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