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Uber loses employment tribunal ruling

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Uber has lost another appeal against an employment tribunal ruling that said those using its app should be entitled to working rights like holiday and sick pay.

The technology company, which maintains that it is an app, rather than a private hire business, lost the original case at the  Central London Employment Tribunal in October 2016.

It appealed the decision and lost the second appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) last year.

After now losing at the Court of Appeal, Uber has confirmed that it will be appealing at the Supreme Court. This will be its last chance to appeal the original ruling back from 2016.

An Uber spokesman said: “This decision was not unanimous and does not reflect the reasons why the vast majority of drivers choose to use the Uber app. We have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and will do so.

“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed.”

Union GMB welcomed the decision and said the win sets another precedent for the wider gig economy.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “We’re now at a hat trick of judgements against Uber, they keep appealing and keep losing.

“Uber should just accept the verdict and stop trying to find loopholes that deprive people of their hard won rights and hard earned pay.”

Nigel Mackay, partner in Leigh Day’s employment team, who worked on the Uber case, said: “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has again upheld the Employment Tribunal’s findings that Uber drivers are workers of Uber.

“This is the third time that the drivers have been victorious in their fight for workers’ rights but Uber has yet to give their drivers what three legal decisions have ruled they are entitled to – holiday pay and to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.”

Uber said that drivers who use the Uber app “make more than the London Living Wage and want to keep the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive”.

The spokesman explained: “If drivers were classified as workers they would inevitably lose some of the freedom and flexibility that comes with being their own boss.

“Over the last two years we’ve made many changes to give drivers even more control over how they use the app, alongside more security through sickness, maternity and paternity protections. We’ll keep listening to drivers and introduce further improvements."

Dr Mareike Mohlmann, of Warwick Business School, said the ruling was an important victory for Uber drivers. “Being classed as workers, rather than self-employed, means drivers will be entitled to annual leave and the minimum wage,” she said. “But it could have an even wider impact by helping to shape the rights and conditions of other gig economy workers.”

Molhmann believes that if Uber does start providing employment benefits for drivers that use its app in the future, it would be a smart investment “to fix its damaged public image and prevent extreme policy responses” like losing its license to operate in London.

Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew Uber’s licence to operation in London in September last year, before granting a short-term licence for 15 months from June this year.

Philip Richardson, partner and head of employment law at Stephensons, concluded: “It acts as another wake up call for employers who can no longer afford to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to recognising the rights of their workers, regardless of their employment status.”


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