Uber loses landmark employment tribunal
Uber has lost its right to call those working for the company as ‘self-employed’ in a case ruled over by the Employment Tribunal court.
In a landmark ruling that could have implications for millions of workers, the tribunal rejected Uber's argument that the drivers do not work for Uber, but merely use its technology. As workers they are entitled to essential workers’ rights, such as sick pay and holiday. The case will directly affect tens of thousands of Uber driver as well as possibly having implications for companies such as Hermes and Deliveroo.
The GMB union brought the case in front of the employment tribunal to argue that the drivers were not, as Uber claimed, partners who simply use their technology in order to earn an income. This is the first time that Uber has faced legal action in the UK over whether its drivers are workers or self-employed. Lawyers said the ruling means Uber will now have to fund costly benefits and may look to fund these by increasing its commission, or the fares it charges to customers.
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 legally defined as workers. One told how he was put under massive pressure to work long hours and accept jobs, and said there were repercussions from the company if he cancelled a pick-up. He said at slow times he earned as little as £5 an hour from his work.
On Friday, 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 pay-outs, 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.