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Employment tribunal: Uber drivers await landmark verdict

Posted on from Changeboard

With the gig economy booming in the UK, what does today's employment tribunal mean for the future of businesses such as Uber and Deliveroo?

Thousands of Uber drivers in the UK are waiting for the final verdict from an employment tribunal that could determine their employment status. 

The drivers are currently classified as independent contractors, and as such, have no provision for holiday or sick pay. In July, lawyers representing 19 drivers contested this employment status, arguing that Uber should instead classify them as employees.

Christopher Tutton, partner of Constantine Law commented: “The courts look at the nature of the relationship between an individual and a company, rather than the label the parties give to it. The Uber employees are contesting that they are 'workers' on the basis that they are employed by Uber to provide their services personally, and they are not in business in their own account.”

It is also being contested that drivers are earning under the national living wage. In a witness statement, one driver said his net earnings were £5.03 an hour over the course of a month. Uber claims the driver earns an average of £13.77 an hour.

The case comes after protests by UK-based Deliveroo drivers in August and a similar class-action lawsuit brought forward by drivers in Massachusetts and California.

In what could be a defining verdict for casual workers in the UK’s burgeoning gig economy, what precedent will the tribunal’s decision make? 

Tutton added: “The decision would have massive implications for employees in the gig economy as the key reason companies such as Uber and Deliveroo have been so successful is that they have harnessed a flexible and low cost workforce through a self employment model.

“The government recently announced a review of the gig economy and the implications for employees as it represents a major shift in our society and working life.”

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