Uber wins the right to appeal ruling on UK drivers' rights

Uber has been granted the right to appeal against a ruling last year that deemed its drivers to be employees, giving them basic employment rights such as minimum wage and holiday and sickness pay.

The employment appeals tribunal has set the appeal date for 27 September, and the hearing will last for two days.

Last October's ruling, by a London employment tribunal, declared that Uber drivers cannot receive below minimum wage. Uber drivers are not paid a salary but are given a commission of each ride they provide, with the company taking a cut too.

Uber had argued that its drivers are self-employed contractors who choose when and where they work, rather than employees who work set hours from specific locations.

An Uber spokesperson said: "Almost all taxi and private hire drivers in the UK have been self-employed for decades and with Uber they have more control over what they do. Licensed drivers who use our app are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts, minimum hours or uniforms. The vast majority of drivers who use Uber tell us they want to remain their own boss as that's the main reason why they signed up to us in the first place".

The original ruling against Uber was fierce, with the judges stating: "The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common 'platform' is to our minds faintly ridiculous. Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers ... They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber's terms."

Last year, drivers using the app in the UK made average fares of 15 per hour after Uber's service fee, Uber said. Uber has highlighted how drivers choose for how long they drive, they can take or ignore trips, they own or rent their own cars and can complete other work or jobs as it suits them.

31/10/2016: A UK employment court has ruled Uber drivers must have the same benefits of employees including holiday pay

A court has ruled that Uber drivers in the UK should be counted as employees of the company rather than contractors, meaning they must get the same benefits including holiday pay.

Additionally, the court said drivers must receive the national living wage rather than lower rates of pay as they currently do, because their wages are based upon the number of trips they make and customers they serve. They are currently paid commission on the income, rather than a salary.

Following the news, experts predict the company could receive claims from its 40,000 drivers working in the UK, arguing that they are owed employee benefits and the company should start offering other extras such as pension schemes.

Uber has consistently argued it's a technology firm, not a transport company, and that its drivers are self-employed contractors who have the benefits of choosing when and where they work, rather than employees who must work from the office at set hours.

"The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform' is to our minds faintly ridiculous," the judges said. "Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber's terms."

The Citizens Advice Bureau carried out research around the contracting industry that revealed many workers in industries outside of the on-demand economy could be falsely classified as self-employed, which means the government is losing 314 million a year in lost tax and employer National Insurance contributions.

"We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers' rights, including to be paid the [national living wage] and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them," Nigel Mackay from the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, which represented the drivers, said in a statement.

"This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled."

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.