The relatively new rise of the ‘gig’ economy has sparked controversy amongst one of the UK’s biggest taxi companies. This new trend is where employers hire workers that are self employed rather than keeping them on their books. In recent years this method of employment has taken the UK by a controversial storm, with popular food deliverer Deliveroo and courier Hermes also adopting the same policy. Uber drivers all act as ‘free-lance’ workers, being offered work through the Uber app, whenever a cab is requested. Due to the convenience and easiness of booking the cab, as well as knowing whereabouts it is and what time it will turn up, Uber has had an extremely quick rise to success. Launched in 2009, the company is said to now be worth $4 billion. There has however, been some confusion as to whether Uber drivers are technically employed by the company or technically self employed? The issue has sparked controversy recently as it has been reported that 19 drivers are taking the company to court over claims that they are employed by the company, yet do not receive the benefits that come with this. It has been suggested that employment status can reduce an employee’s costs by as much as 30%, so it’s important that the issue is resolved and the record set straight.
The Uber drivers in question have argued that their terms and conditions state they are in fact employed by the company, and are appearing in court this week to argue their point and receive what they are owed. The trial is due to start on the 20th July and will make reference to the 30, 000 Uber drivers in London alone, all of whom are registered as self-employed. A solicitor that will be representing the drivers wants to explore Uber’s claims that they are a technology firm, rather than a service providing transport. They do not directly provide transport and rather put customers in touch with drivers, who then collect them of their own accord. Solicitors are determined to prove them wrong. Solicitor Annie Powell is arguing that Uber driver’s are subject to rates and as a result they are workers, for the firm. Workers understandably do not have the same rights as employees but are still quite rightly entitled to minimum wage, holiday pay and the right not to face salary deductions. Despite claims that the gig economy has sparked a decline in employment rights, London’s Uber manager has claimed that being self employed, choosing your own hours and working when it suits you is one of the things that have attracted many people to leave their current firms and take up work with Uber.
Case of the year
The trials are the first time Uber has had legal action taken against them in the UK and if it is found that Uber are wrongly titling their workers as self-employed, the same could happen to other businesses that operate similarly. The trial has been named as the case of the year for employment law. The battle will be to give all Uber drivers a ‘worker’ status, which will com with a whole host of rights that they do not have any access to at the moment. it will also give them basic protection that self-employed workers do not get. In the past, Uber has been accused of deducting from a ‘worker’s’ salary and not informing them beforehand, something that has sparked a trial. Ironically, worker’s rights also involve the right to litigate which is something that Uber usually like to avoid. Interesting…