Two Uber drivers working for the taxi app firm Uber have been successful in their battle to be classified as workers rather than self-employed.
The Uber drivers claimed that they are employees and that the company has been acting unlawfully by not allowing them to have sick leave, breaks and holiday pay or paying them the minimum wage.
But Uber had insisted that the 40,000 drivers it uses are actually self-employed and not entitled to these benefits.
Unsurprisingly the unions welcomed the employment tribunal’s decision calling it a monumental victory for the 40,000 drivers across England and Wales.
Uber argued that their drivers work for the company because they want to be self-employed and be their own boss.
But the drivers said they felt controlled by the company as if they were employed by Uber, but without basic workers’ rights. Lawyers for the drivers said that the company had often taken money from their pay, and often without telling the drivers in advance. In an investigation carried out last year by the GMB union, it was discovered that a driver working for Uber was paid £5.03 per hour in one particular month, which is considerably below the £7.20 national minimum wage.
Similar cases abroad
It isn’t just in the UK where Uber has been accused of violating employment rights. Earlier this year, drivers working for the company in America filed a lawsuit against Uber arguing that they had been wrongly classed as independent contractors. The company had offered to pay $100m (£82.1m) to the drivers to settle their claim, but a court ruled the amount was nowhere near adequate.
This is a landmark case that is expected to have a huge impact on not just Uber’s thousands of drivers in the UK, but workers in the ‘gig economy’ whose employers classify them as self-employed.
Companies like Deliveroo, who follow a similar business model may find that some of their riders follow up on the recent Uber ruling. Deliveroo pay cyclists and scooter riders to deliver restaurant food to customers’ homes. The company say that they are paying people to pursue their hobby, but if any of their riders are dependent on the income then they could soon be making their own claim for employee status.
Uber are planning to appeal against the employment tribunal’s ruling.