Ever since it launched Uber has insisted that all of its drivers aren't employees. They're self employed workers who happen to use Uber to find clients, so they're not actually entitled to simple benefits like sick pay or minimum wage. Well an employment tribunal ruled that they are employees and should be treated as such, and now Uber has lost its appeal against that decision.
The appeal tribunal agreed that an Uber driver is actually 'working' when they're logged in and waiting for a ride, time that they're not actually paid for. It also noted that Uber has a monopoly on private hire via an app, so drivers can't take part in other work while also making themselves available for Uber passengers.
I'm not sure monopoly is the right word, since other app-based private hire companies do exist in the UK and people can sign up to drive for them. The tribunal insists that Uber drivers have to take 80 per cent of requested rides, however, so it's not like you can keep switching between Uber and, say, Kabbee without being penalised. Uber denies this claim, however.
GMB, the union that initiated the original case, has hailed the ruling as a 'landmark victory', although Uber is naturally not very happy. It's entitled to appeal the appeal via the Court of Appeals, and if it should fail there then it's able to get the Supreme Court involved. It's statement reads:
"Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. The main reason why drivers use Uber is because they value the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive and so we intend to appeal. The tribunal relies on the assertion that drivers are required to take 80% of trips sent to them when logged into the app. As drivers who use Uber know, this has never been the case in the UK. Over the last year we have made a number of changes to our app to give drivers even more control. We've also invested in things like access to illness and injury cover and we'll keep introducing changes to make driving with Uber even better."
"Yeah, but no, but yeah everything is fine with Uber, so shove off while we fix our service which is actually fine as it is! Shut up!"
It's going to be a while before this matter is settled, but seeing as how the government is currently investigating the gig economy you might expect some changes to happen in the ear future. And by near future I mean the next couple of years, because nothing runs slower than the wheels of government. [Gov.uk via Engadget]