Uber's London ban provokes landmark employment lawsuit

Uber's London ban provokes landmark employment lawsuit

Ride hailing app Uber has been stripped of its operating license in London. The city’s transport authority (TfL) announced that the firm was barred from working within the city, due to concerns over “public safety and security implications”, concluding that the app is not “fit and proper”.

Now that Uber’s London license has been revoked, this week the firm will begin its appeal in landmark UK employment case over whether its drivers should be classified as workers or self-employed.

The legal appeal is set against the case won by two drivers that ruled they were workers, entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay – The Financial Times reports. Uber, however, argues that it is an app that connects drivers with people, and is not an employer. Uber said: “Drivers have overwhelmingly told us that they want to remain independent contractors. We believe we have a strong case and are looking forward to it being heard next week.”

However, Sean Nesbitt, Partner and Employment Specialist at Taylor Wessing, added that he is sceptical that Uber will succeed in their appeal.

James Farrar, one of the two Uber drivers who brought the case, said: “What’s exasperating is that here we are, about two years since we started this, and almost a year since the judgment, and Uber are still fighting — spending millions to avoid paying the minimum wage.”

The Work and Pensions Committee previously slammed gig economy employers Amazon, Deliveroo and Uber for their employment practices and “egregious” contracts, accusing them of “creating vocabulary” to avoid giving workers basic employee rights.

The lack of clarity over workers’ rights prompted a Government review back in July, overseen by Matthew Taylor. However, the review did little to lay down any regulation, but instead, promotes change to corporate culture. Speaking to HR Grapevine, Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group, said that “providing good work must be at the top of our national priority list”.

Jason Moyer-Lee, General Secretary of the IWGB, a union that focuses on precarious workers, said the Uber case was important in the bigger argument about the gig economy. “Because Uber generates such publicity, I think if we win, that will go a large way to solidifying the narrative of workers’ rights in the so-called gig economy,” he said.

To help HR to digest the current review, HR Grapevine spoke to industry leaders about exactly what, the Matthew Taylor document means for employers. Read more here.

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