Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
World | By Melba Underwood

Uber loses workers' rights appeal: Here's how employment experts have reacted

Uber loses workers' rights appeal: Here's how employment experts have reacted

"If the reality is that Uber's market share in London is such that its drivers are, in practical terms, unable to hold themselves out as available to any other [company], then, as a matter of fact, they are working at Uber's disposal as part of the pool of drivers it requires to be available within the territory at any one time", Judge Judge Jennifer Eady QC wrote in her ruling.

Tom Elvidge, Uber UK's acting general manager, said: "The main reason why drivers use Uber is because they value the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive, and so we intend to appeal".

It had appealed an Employment Tribunal case previous year, brought by two former drivers, that ruled that drivers were effectively working for Uber while the app was switched on, and were not able to make themselves available to other operators as Uber claimed.

In its decision in Uber BV and others v Aslam and others, the EAT has now endorsed the original employment tribunal decision that, in practice, Uber's drivers bear the hallmarks of being workers. A July report by Labour MP Frank Field outlined that, because of the way Uber had structured its business, drivers in the United Kingdom were taking home as little as $2.64 an hour - less than a third of what they were entitled to under the country's National Living Wage.

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"It's not only morally wrong to have drivers denied their workers' rights, but with many feeling they must work long hours, with few breaks, just to get by, it also presents a serious risk to public safety", said Labour's London Assembly economy spokesperson, Fiona Twycross. Uber is planning to appeal the decision, meaning that the case could end up being dragged through the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Paul Jennings, a partner at law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, which represented the drivers in the EAT, said: "We are delighted with today's judgment, which is ethically and legally the right outcome".

"It is the latest in a series of employment tribunal cases examining the status of workers, as seen with Deliveroo, CitySprint and Pimlico Plumbers".

In a statement, Uber said it plans to appeal the ruling. "The Uber drivers' union GMB deserve huge credit for their work on this case". "This ruling has arguably put the proverbial nail in the coffin of those businesses who seek to avoid the ramifications of worker status by trying to create unrealistic "self-employed" arrangements with those who work for them". Unions will expose nasty schemes that try and cheat workers out of the minimum wage and holiday pay. The company has always maintained that drivers who use its platform are independent contractors.

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