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18th July 2017

Tribunal decision on the employment rights of Uber drivers

There has been a tribunal decision on the employment rights of Uber drivers.

The self-employed drivers argued that they should be treated as employees, wanting entitlement to the national minimum wage, holiday and sick pay.

The decision, if it stands, only applies to the employment rights of Uber drivers involved in the case, but it would mean Uber having to amend contracts for all 40,000 drivers in the UK. The ramifications could extend through to groups such as self employed delivery drivers, food couriers, builders and even hairdressers.

Uber argued that it is a technology company rather than a taxi provider, and that its drivers are independent self employed contractors who use the technology to make money. The company does not own a single vehicle. The Tribunal dismissed as ridiculous the claim that it simply linked thousands of small business through a technology platform.

Many of the facts do support a case for self employment. Uber drivers provide their own vehicles, pay for all related costs (such as private hire insurance), are permitted to work independently or for other companies, do no wear an Uber uniform and are free to accept work only when they want to by turning the Uber app on or off.

However, when the Uber App is turned on, the relationship was considered to be one of employment with drivers generally having to accept most of the work offered to them. Drivers do not know the name of passengers, do not know the destination until a journey begins, have little control over the route, have not control over the fee charged, do not collect the fee and are discouraged from accepting tips. Uber, rather than the driver, accepts the risk of any financial loss and deals with passenger complaints.

Uber has downplayed the decision and will be taking the case to the employment appeal tribunal.

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