Over the past few months, the taxi-hailing app Uber has faced almost endless controversy and scrutiny while the latest episode for the firm only brings more bad news.
The Workers’ Rights Tribunal
This month Uber lost a tribunal over workers’ rights. This is the first case against Uber within the UK and is one that could lead to huge repercussions for thousands of workers. Brought by two of its drivers, this blow replicates a previous case of a female driver who sued for sexual discrimination, claiming the company does not protect workers. The company are also famously in conflict with London’s transport regulators who have proposed to ban the service from London roads following safety concerns.
With drivers believing they should be paid overtime and receive holiday pay while working through Uber, courts in the UK have demonstrated sympathy for these rights calling for greater protection for employees. Uber however, argue that drivers do not work for them claiming that they are simply an agent that brings passengers and drivers together. Courts rejected this notion ruling that in reality Uber drivers work for Uber.
Uber counter argue that the courts’ decision is founded on incorrect evidence claiming it will appeal to higher powers. The notion presented at the tribunal that states drivers must accept 80% of jobs sent to them via the Uber app has, according to Uber “never been the case in the U.K.”.
A central element of the taxi service’s business model has been seriously hurt through this decision. Classing their drivers as contractors rather than employees means that the cost to Uber is minimal. Furthermore, this protects the company when rider demand is low as they have no responsibility to pay drivers wages. Defining drivers as employees of Uber and ensuring they receive employee rights changes all of this.
As reported by City A.M., Uber UK’s acting general manager, Tom Elvidge said, “Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. 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.
“Over the last year we have made a number of changes to our app to give drivers even more control. We’ve also invested in things like access to illness and injury cover and we’ll keep introducing changes to make driving with Uber even better.”
Regardless of Uber’s stance on the ruling, for the time being, the company will have to face their new responsibilities and enforce these workers’ rights. They will commence their appeal against Transport for London’s decision to revoke its license on December 11th.