Uber drivers continue to fight for workers’ rights

Mon 2nd Oct 2017

Taxi app firm Uber has been in the headlines over the last few weeks as more of its staff fight for workers’ rights. Coodes Solicitors Employment lawyer Philip Sayers discusses the developments and the issues raised about workers in the gig economy.

Uber is appealing against a ruling that its drivers are entitled to workers’ rights, including paid holiday. The firm claims its drivers are self-employed and that they actually prefer it that way.

Last year, two Uber drivers took the company to tribunal, arguing that they were entitled to be given basic workers’ rights, such as paid holiday. The tribunal ruled in their favour but Uber continues to fight its corner. The firm has compared itself to a mini cab firm and that its drivers should be treated as contractors.

Uber claims that 80 per cent of its staff would rather be self-employed. However, I would be very surprised if they would all prefer the tax breaks associated with self-employment over getting paid holiday.

The developments with Uber are the latest to draw attention to the issues of the so-called ‘gig economy’. This is a more flexible approach to employment that sees workers paid for each piece of work they produce, rather than being given a salary or hourly rate of pay. Gig economy workers are not entitled to workers’ rights, such as sick pay, guaranteed hours or paid holiday.

Back in July, a Government Report – the Matthew Taylor Review of modern working practices – recommended a number of changes to give the estimated 1.1million UK gig workers more rights. The proposals include introducing a new category of worker – an ‘independent contractor’ – who has more rights than a self-employed worker, including statutory sick pay.

The ongoing Uber case shows how complex these issues are. Following last year’s employment tribunal, a number of other drivers are now suing the firm. Uber’s loss of its licence to operate in London may tempt more to do so, because London drivers will not be able to continue driving for the company unless it wins its appeal. I suspect the dispute will continue to develop over the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on other companies operating in the gig economy.

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers, Employment team, Coodes Solicitors on 01872 246200 or philip.sayers@coodes.co.uk.

Mon 2nd Oct 2017

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