Uber's contractor claims to be tested in UK court

Claims by US ride-hailing app Uber that people who drive using it are not employees but contractors – engaged independently - are set to be tested in a British court.

Speaking at the end of last week, London law firm Leigh Day said it had a new instruction by the GMB union to sue the app for failing to provide drivers with basic workers’ rights.

On the union’s behalf, the firm argues that the San Francisco company does not currently ensure that its drivers are paid minimum wage or that they receive paid holiday.

The company also fails to adhere to UK health and safety law such as by not ensuring Uber drivers  take rest breaks or work a maximum number of hours, alleges the GMB.

Uber admits it does not provide its drivers with normal employment rights because it insists that they are ‘partners’ – freelance contractors who earn their living from numerous sources.

But this stance was weakened in June, when a California Labour Commissioner ruled that an Uber driver was an employee, not a contractor, as she was vetted, monitored and controlled.

This determining aspect of status – control - now looks set to play out in the courts in the UK, suggested Nigel Mackay, an employment lawyer at Leigh Day.

“Uber not only pays the drivers but it also effectively controls how much passengers are charged and requires drivers to follow particular routes,” he said.

“We believe that’s it’s clear from the way Uber operates that it owes the same responsibilities towards its drivers as any other employer does to its workers.”

Seemingly aware of the importance of control, Uber recently told the Financial Times that it is not its company but its self-employed drivers “who control their use of the app.”

A defeat in court fort Uber could see substantial payouts for drivers, potentially including compensation for past non-payments to people who the GMB says are ‘workers.’

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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