19 Drivers Are Taking Uber To Court In A Fight For Employment Rights

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The Law Of... knowing your employment rights

Described as employment law's 'case of the year', 19 drivers are taking legal action against giant corporation Uber, demanding that they be recognised as official workers for the company – and not classed as self-employed.

19 Drivers Are Taking Uber To Court In A Fight For Employment Rights

Zee Hussain, Partner and Head of Corporate Services, explores what type of consequences this case might have on employment law.

In a tribunal hearing taking place this week, lawyers representing the group of drivers will argue that the terms and conditions of the drivers' work for Uber means that they shouldn't be classed as self-employed, and should be entitled to benefits they're currently not receiving.

Examples of such benefits include:

  • A legal entitlement to the national living wage
  • Pension contributions
  • Holiday and sick pay

The Changing Face Of Employment

This case is one example of the rise of the so-called 'gig economy', where companies are choosing to use self-employed individuals to provide certain services rather than hiring them as workers or employees.

Jo Bertram, Uber UK's regional general manager, has suggested that the reason why drivers choose to partner with Uber is because "they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly."

Self-employed Or Worker?

The drivers' solicitor, has suggested that the outcome of the case is dependent upon 2 factors:

  1. The nature of the business
  2. The amount of control Uber has over its drivers

She comments that "Uber is arguing that it is a technology company and that it does not provide a transport service to customers; it just puts them in touch with drivers."

The argument here is that the drivers should be classed as workers and not self-employed, because they are subject to ratings from customers and aren't given information about where they need to be dropped off before they pick up a customer. The category of 'worker' actually functions as the middle ground in terms of employment, and might be beneficial for Uber as this offers individuals some benefits, but not as many as those given to employees.

If the drivers' case is successful, this might persuade other individuals to challenge the nature of their employment and might even prompt a review of, or changes to, current employment law.

Zee comments:

"This case demonstrates that the legal relationship between staff and their employers is becoming increasingly complex, especially since advances in technology have the power to change the way in which employers hire and recognise staff."

"If Uber were to lose this case to its drivers and they are recognised as workers, the company will be required to take on the hefty responsibility for HR and employee management: they will need to implement a variety of changes across the business, including contractual as well as policy – which, of course, will be both time-consuming and expensive."

"Employers running similar types of businesses to Uber should review the types of contracts or agreements they have with their staff, to ensure that both they and their staff are fully aware of their role within the business and which (if any) rights they are entitled to."

"It's also important for employers to seek legal advice as early on as possible, to avoid a similar situation to Uber."


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