UK Uber drivers face October wait over employee rights ruling

Union says drivers could each gain £12,000 in compensation if Uber loses appeal against previous ruling that said its drivers are its employees

Uber is appealing a decision ruling its drivers are employees at the UK's Supreme Court.
Uber is appealing a decision ruling its drivers are employees at the UK's Supreme Court.

Thousands of Uber drivers in Britain will have to wait until October to learn whether they have succeeded in proving the ride-hailing company is their employer.

In a landmark case at the UK Supreme Court Uber is appealing against a previous tribunal ruling that its drivers are its employees, entitling them to Britain’s minimum wage and holiday pay.

If the case is upheld, the GMB union, which represents drivers, said Uber could be forced to pay drivers £12,000 each in compensation and the case would have wider implications for millions of people working in the gig economy.

"Uber has spent a small fortune using the legal system instead of accepting its responsibilities to our members,” Susan Harris, GMB legal director, told The National.

“But they have reached the end of the road. We will continue to ask them to sit down with GMB to make sure drivers get the benefits to which they are entitled."

If Uber’s appeal is rejected the case will return to Britain’s Employment Appeal Tribunal, which will decide how much compensation drivers are entitled to.

The two-day appeal ended on Wednesday.

Jason Galbraith Marten QC, representing two of the appellants, urged the court to dismiss Uber’s appeal and accused it of “having its cake and eating it”.

“The claimants are workers and the tribunal was right to reach that conclusion,” he told the court on Wednesday.

“I invite your lordships to find that the Employment Tribunal was right to find that the claimants meet the statutory requirements of a worker and to dismiss the appeal.”

Uber’s legal team had told the court that the UK's National Minimum Wage Act did not extend to its drivers and there was "no warrant" to adopt it in this case.

On behalf of Uber, Dinah Rose QC told the court the appeal should be allowed.

“Our submission, on the only reasonable view of the facts, is on the evidence there was no undertaking by the drivers to work at all except after they had accepted a trip. There was no obligation for a driver to work for anybody,” she added on Wednesday.

Lord Reed told the parties the court will now consider the case.

"This is obviously a very important and interesting case and we will now take time to consider your submissions," he said.

The two former UK Uber drivers first won their employment tribunal against the company in 2016 to show they were employees and entitled to benefits, such as earning the minimum wage and holiday pay.

Despite two further appeals by Uber, the tribunal and the Court of Appeal have upheld the decision.

The latest hearing is Uber’s last roll of the dice to defend its business model in Britain as the Supreme Court's decision will be final and cannot be appealed.

Uber says its practices have been used for decades by private-hire vehicles known as minicabs, which cannot be hailed in the street like traditional taxis, and that drivers earn on average more than the minimum wage alongside other benefits.

A judgment is not expected until at least October.

Published: July 22, 2020 07:03 PM


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