Gig economy: Uber appeal hearing confirmed

Photo: Teerawit Chankowet / Shutterstock
Photo: Teerawit Chankowet / Shutterstock

Uber has received leave to appeal the decision on the employment status of its drivers to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

In October 2016, a London employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers were workers rather than self-employed.

This meant that drivers were entitled to be paid minimum wage, and to receive annual leave and statutory sick pay from Uber.

The decision was highly anticipated and marked the first of several employment tribunal cases on employment status in the gig economy, including cases against CitySprint, Excel and Pimlico Plumbers.

Although the facts differed based on the arrangements of the various companies, employment tribunals and a higher court in each case found that the claimants were workers rather than self-employed.

While its case is being appealed, Uber will not yet have to apply the employment tribunal decision to its workforce of 40,000 drivers in the UK.

Companies operating on a gig economy model, in which individuals are contracted on a short-term or flexible basis to perform “gigs”, have recently come under scrutiny for allegedly abusive employment practices such as low pay.

Critics also say that, where such companies pay less income tax and national insurance contributions, and do not provide benefits such as sick pay or pensions, the burden of supporting their workers shifts to the public welfare system.

Several public inquiries are currently underway in relation to the regulation of the gig economy, including the Matthew Taylor review of modern business practices, a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee inquiry into the status and rights of workers, and a Works and Pensions Committee inquiry into self-employment.

“Although the gig economy inquiries could recommend a significant change to the regulation and taxation of self-employed individuals and workers, these issues are complex and may take a back seat to negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU,” says Qian Mou, employment law editor at XpertHR.

“For the time being, the employment tribunal and court decisions continue to be highly relevant and instructive in how employers should approach employment status.”

The Uber appeal has been scheduled for two days, starting 27 September 2017.

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