Uber loses right to classify drivers as self-employed
October 28 2016 10:05 PM
A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a
A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central London,

Guardian News and Media/London

Drivers for Uber have won a landmark case after employment tribunal judges ruled that they were not self-employed and should be paid the “national living wage”.
The case, taken by two workers, could open up the tech firm to claims from all of its 40,000 drivers in the UK, and force other companies with tens of thousands of workers in the so-called gig economy to review the way they employ staff. Uber said it will appeal against the finding.
The ride-hailing app had argued that it was a tech firm and that its drivers were independent self-employed contractors who can choose where and when they work. As a result, they were not entitled to rights granted to workers, including holiday pay and the national living wage, introduced by George Osborne last year to replace the minimum wage for workers over 24.
At a tribunal hearing in July, lawyers for two drivers argued that the terms and conditions of their work with the company meant that they were operating as workers. One told how he was put under “tremendous pressure” to work long hours and accept jobs, and said there were “repercussions” from the company if he cancelled a pickup. He said some months he earned as little as £5 an hour.
Yesterday, the employment tribunal announced that it had found in the drivers’ favour. The ruling means that these workers and others who signed up to make a claim could be entitled to compensation for missed holiday pay and back payments for work paid at rates below the national living wage of £7.20 an hour.
Other drivers with the firm will not automatically receive payouts, but if the firm accepts the ruling it will have to change its contracts to avoid more cases being taken by drivers. Lawyers say that its terms and conditions are similar for all of its UK employees.
Nigel Mackay from the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, which represented the drivers, said: “We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the (national living wage) and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them.
He added: “This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on 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 the rights to which they are entitled.”
Uber can take its case to the employment appeal tribunal and, if it is unsuccessful there, the court of appeal and supreme court. It said it planned to appeal.
Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said: “Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss.
“The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want. While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people we will be appealing it.”

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