Uber loses appeal in landmark UK case over its drivers' employment rights

The Uber app open at a taxi rank

In September, Uber appealed the 2016 tribunal ruling that found Uber had incorrectly classified a group of workers as self-employed rather than as contracted "workers". It frames itself as a technology platform, connecting riders and drivers and taking a fee in the process.

"We have always believed that the Employment Tribunal's decision from last October was entirely correct in saying that our GMB member clients were entitled to workers' right such as the minimum wage and holiday pay".

Nick Elwell-Sutton, partner at Clyde & Co, said today's ruling should not be taken as the last word, given that the issue is "likely to reach the Supreme Court".

However, the company subsequently appealed, arguing its drivers were self-employed and were under no obligation to use its booking app.

Responding to Friday's ruling, Tom Elvidge, Uber UK's acting general manager, said: "Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed".

"I do not consider it was wrong to hold that a driver would be a worker engaged on working time when in the territory, with the app switched on, and ready and willing to accept trips ("on-duty", to use Uber's shorthand)".

"Over the previous year we have made a number of changes to our app to give drivers even more control".

Uber is now fighting TfL's decision, but its CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has admitted that the company needs to make changes to the way it does business.

Uber lost its challenge at the EAT, but immediately announced it will appeal, saying nearly all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before its app existed. "If they want to make things right, just obey the laws". "This ruling has arguably put the proverbial nail in the coffin of those businesses who seek to avoid the ramifications of worker status by trying to create unrealistic "self-employed" arrangements with those who work for them".

But Uber drivers shouldn't get too excited about the prospect of receiving standard worker benefits just yet.

While appeals from the EAT are normally heard in the Court of Appeal, there is a procedure in place for cases of particular legal significance to be "fast-tracked" to the Supreme Court.

There are over 1 million people working in the gig economy in the United Kingdom, according to recent government estimates. It says its drivers enjoy the flexibility that self-employment brings.

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