Uber faces tribunal over self-employed status of drivers

by Lucy Hook22 Jul 2016
Uber is being taken to an employment tribunal by drivers in the UK who claim that the company is acting unlawfully by categorising drivers as self-employed to avoid paying them minimum wage and holiday pay.

The app-based taxi firm, which has users book and pay for taxis through the Uber app, and then pays its drivers a percentage of the fee, is facing a legal challenge from drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam over whether drivers should be deemed as employees or self-employed.

The two cases, described as ‘test cases’, began on 20 July and will determine whether a further 17 claims against the firm will go ahead.

Farrar and Aslam, represented by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of the GMB union, both claim the company is acting unlawfully by not offering holiday and sick pay as would be afforded to them if they were classed as employees.

Uber, which calls its drivers ‘partners’, insists that they are not employed workers but are instead self-employed and can work as little or as much as they wish.

David Reade QC, representing Uber, sought to demonstrate on the first day of the tribunal in London that Mr Farrar was self-employed as he can choose when he works, BBC News reports.

However, Farrar insisted that he does not have “free choice” and considers Uber work as his job.

He also claimed that his pay was often below the national minimum wage in the UK.

The action is the latest in a series of legal challenges against Uber, which operates in over 487 cities worldwide, according to its website.

Uber paid US$7.5m last month to settle a lawsuit brought by drivers over background checks in San Francisco, where the company was founded.

In a statement the regional general manager at Uber UK, Jo Bertram, said: "More than 30,000 people in London drive with our app and this case only involves a very small number.

"The main reason people choose to partner with Uber is so they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly.

"Many partner-drivers have left other lines of work and chosen to partner with Uber for this very reason. In fact, two thirds of new partner-drivers joining the Uber platform have been referred by another partner."

A ruling on the tribunal is expected in several weeks.

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