An employment tribunal has handed down a long awaited judgment which has concluded two cab drivers were not self-employed and should therefore receive the national living wage from mini-cab app giant, Uber.
James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam brought the case on behalf of a group 19 Uber workers who argued they were not self-employed but were in fact employed by the company.
It has been predicted that the legal victory will affect fellow Uber drivers and have implications for thousands of workers in the so-called ‘gig economy.’
However, Uber plans to appeal the judgment and in the latest twist in this long-running saga following the tribunal’s ruling, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern Europe, Jo Bertram, sent an email to its 40,000 drivers, stating: “As you may be aware, earlier this year a small number of London partner-drivers brought a claim to challenge their self-employed status with Uber. Although we have today heard that this challenge has been successful at this first stage, it’s very important to note that today’s decision only affects two individuals and Uber will be appealing it.
“There will be no change to your partnership with Uber in light of this decision and we will continue to support the overwhelming majority of drivers who tell us that they use the Uber app to be their own boss and choose when and where to drive.”
Tribunal judges had dismissed Uber’s suggestion that its London operation was a mosaic of thousands of small businesses linked by a technology platform as “faintly ridiculous”. They said Uber resorted to “fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology” to portray their drivers as self-employed.
Now trade union, GMB, has accused Uber of misleading its drivers. Maria Ludkin, GMB’s legal director, said: “Even after the judge found Ms Bertram’s evidence lacked credibility and described her as ‘grimly loyal’, she continues to try and advance a misleading and false set of facts. The Uber judgment applies to 40,000 UK drivers, not two. Ms Bertram might be wise to think how this judgment reflects on her before she issues any more statements.”
Lara Murray, an employment law expert with Palmers said: “This already lengthy court battle seems set to continue for some considerable time. Uber has stated it intends to take the case to the employment appeal tribunal, and following its decision there could be further hearings in the court of appeal and then the Supreme Court.
“From a practical consideration, any payments due to drivers will not be calculated until that process is over. In the meantime, similar cases are likely to follow against a number of cycle courier firms including City Sprint and the meal delivery company, Deliveroo.
“What these legal claims tell us is that the nature of work is changing and companies employing self-employed contractors or freelancers need to ensure that their contracts and terms and conditions fully comply with employment legislation.”
For help and advice relating to contracts for self-employed contractors and freelance workers, please contact us.