10 November 2017
The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has today upheld last year’s ruling that Uber drivers are legally classified as ‘workers’ and are thus eligible for basic workers’ rights, including the minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks.
Last October, a test case brought by GMB led to scathing remarks from judges at the Central London Employment Tribunal regarding the company’s business model.
“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 2016 judgment stated, noting that the firm’s argument that drivers are “self employed” was based on “fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology”.
Uber appealed the decision, arguing that the Central London Employment Tribunal erred in its judgment, but the company’s case was unsuccessful.
Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director, said: “GMB is delighted the EAT made the correct decision to uphold the original employment tribunal ruling. Uber must now face up to its responsibilities and give its workers the rights to which they are entitled.”
Nigel Mackay, employment solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, which originally represented the drivers, said: “We now hope that Uber will accept this decision, rather than seeking pursuing appeals, so that we can swiftly return to the Employment Tribunal on behalf of our GMB member clients, for the Tribunal to decide the compensation that they are entitled to.”
The Uber drivers in question, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrer, who were backed at the appeal case by their union the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), were also celebrating the win.
Aslam said: “I am glad that the judge today confirmed what I and thousands of drivers have known all along: that Uber is not only exploiting drivers, but also acting unlawfully. We will carry on fighting until this exploitation stops and workers’ rights are respected.”
Farrar added: “Uber cannot go on flouting UK law with impunity and depriving people of their minimum wage rights. We have done everything we can, now it is time for the Mayor of London, Transport for London and the Transport Secretary to step up and use their leverage to defend worker rights rather than turn a blind eye to sweatshop conditions.”
The Institute of Employment Rights recommends, in our Manifesto for Labour Law, that a universal status of ‘worker’, eligible for all rights from Day One, is introduced and that everyone in employment is presumed to be a worker unless proven otherwise. This takes the onus away from workers like Aslam and Farrar to take legal action, and it also removes the ability of businesses to undercut one group of workers with another in a race to the bottom on employment rights.