London ruling finds Uber drivers ‘employees’

The world’s courts appear to be confused about Uber’s relationship with its drivers. A London ruling on Friday, which the company is appealing, decided that it’s 30,000 drivers in the capital are Uber employees and therefore entitled to minimum wages and holiday pay – but other courts have said ‘Uber is no more an employer to drivers than an art gallery is to artists.’

Uber claims that it is a technology company and drivers are self-employed contractors, but the London employment tribunal said, ‘The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform is to our minds faintly ridiculous.’

Courts in California have also taken this view, although other courts in America have found in favour of the company.

The case in London was brought by the GMB union on behalf of two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam. The GMB has described the ruling as a ‘monumental victory, while the TUC said the Uber example is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, arguing that the gig economy – or on-demand economy – allows bosses to get out of paying the minimum wage and providing paid holidays and rest breaks.

Meanwhile, Nigel Mackay from law firm Leigh Day, which represented the two drivers, said, ‘This judgment acknowledges the central contribution that Uber’s drivers have made to Uber’s success by confirming that its drivers are not self-employed, but that they work for Uber as part of the company’s business.

‘This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.’

Jo Bertram, Uber’s UK manager, said, ‘Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss.

‘The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want. While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people, we will be appealing it.’