Uber drivers should be classed as workers rather than self-employed, a London employment tribunal ruled today in what is seen as a landmark case on employment rights.
Two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, brought the test case claiming they were entitled to the national minimum wage, as well as paid rest breaks and holiday pay.
Uber argued that the drivers were self employed and that many of its drivers wanted to stay that way. It founded on the facts that drivers were under no obligation to log on to the app through which they received farepaying passengers, or to accept any assignment offered, as incompatible with any form of employment or other contract for services.
The tribunal accepted the lack of obligation in these situations, but continued: "But when the app mis switched on, the legal analysis is, we think, different. We have reached the conclusion that any driver who (a) has the app switched on, (b) is within the territory within which he is authorised to work, and (c) is able and willing to accept assignments, is, for so long as those conditions are satisfied, working for Uber under a 'worker' contract and a contract within each of the extended definitions" (in the minimum wage and employment rights legislation).
It added: "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 decision could affect 40,000 drivers in England & Wales alone. Many other companies such as Deliveroo could also be affected. The GMB union, which supported the drivers' case, described the decision as a "monumental victory".
Uber intends to appeal against the ruling.
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady commented: "For many workers the gig economy is a rigged economy, where bosses can get out of paying the minimum wage and providing basics like paid holidays and rest breaks.
"What is happening at Uber is just the tip of the iceberg. Lots of people are now trapped in insecure jobs, with low pay and no voice at work. We need the Government to get tough on sham self-employment."
Jo Bertram, Uber's UK manager, responded: "The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want. While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people, we will be appealing it."