Drivers Battle Uber Over Employment Rights

Uber is facing an employment tribunal claim from drivers who argue it is acting unlawfully by not offering rights such as holiday pay and sick pay.

Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors or self-employed. However, in June 2015, the California Labor Commission ruled that an Uber driver was an employee rather than an independent contractor. The company is now faced with legal action in the UK over the issue of whether their drivers are classed as workers or self-employed.

Uber which allows users to book and pay for a cab through a smartphone app, is used by around 2 million people in London.

The two test cases backed by the GMB union, which will also determine a further 17 claims, centre around whether the drivers can be considered workers or, as Uber argues, as self-employed. The two legal definitions are accorded different employment rights. Workers are given similar rights to employees in that they are entitled to holiday pay, are protected from unlawful deductions from their pay and may be entitled to sickness pay.

One of the two test cases involve, James Farrar, an Uber driver – whilst Uber argue that Mr Farrar was self-employed because he could choose when to work, Mr Farrar argues that he does not have a free choice as he considers Uber work as his day-to-day job.

The GMB Union said that Uber does not provide its drivers with the rights normally afforded to employees, claiming instead that they are “partners”. It also argued that Uber drivers face very difficult working conditions and with cuts to fares (where a customer makes a complaint) it is thought that some Uber drivers are taking home less than the national minimum wage when taking the costs of running a car into account.

This is the latest in a series of legal challenges about the way Uber does business. If it is decided that Uber drivers are workers, tens and thousands of other Uber drivers could potentially claim more.

If you have any questions arising from this article or would like further information, please get in touch with a member of our Employment team.