Uber granted appeal in landmark legal case over employment status of drivers as workers or self-employed

Lynsey Barber
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Uber Drivers Present Petition To Transport For London
Uber will argue against an earlier decision on the status of its drivers (Source: Getty)

Uber has been granted an appeal in a landmark legal battle over the employment status of its drivers in the UK.

The multi-billion dollar startup will return to court later this year to argue against an employment tribunal ruling which last year said that Uber drivers should be classed as workers and are not self-employed.

The ruling in October 2016, which has pathed the way for further action by others working in the so-called gig economy, means that drivers are entitled to rights such as holiday and sick pay.

Read more: Regulating the gig economy would be a regressive blow against individualism

Uber argues that they are self-employed and will appeal that original decision in an Employment Appeal Tribunal at the end of September.

“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers in the UK have been self-employed for decades and with Uber they have more control over what they do," said an Uber spokesperson.

"Licensed drivers who use our app are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts, minimum hours or uniforms. The vast majority of drivers who use Uber tell us they want to remain their own boss as that’s the main reason why they signed up to us in the first place.”

Read more: Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon contracts branded "gibberish" by gig economy MPs

The case was brought by two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, on behalf of a group of 19 represented by GMB Union and lawyers at Leigh Day.

Farrar told CIty A.M. the case was "rock solid" and blasted the appeal.

"It is nothing short of tragic that Uber is continuing to fight us drivers to avoid the obligation to pay the minimum wage and holiday leave. Uber has no case to appeal but is cynically playing for extra time with expensive lawyers in a vain attempt to grind us down," he said.

More Uber drivers have since joined as claimants in the original case, while a similar claim is being pursued by Deliveroo drivers. Two separate rulings delivered a similar verdict in the case of a plumber who worked for Pimlico Plumbers and a CitySprint courier. Boss of the famous plumbing company Charlie Mullins said he would appeal the case.

The case has serious implications for millions of workers in the gig economy and companies which operate in this area as it will set a precedent. Legal experts believe Uber will be forced to make significant payouts to drivers, which number 30,000 in the UK, if it does not win the appeal. It will also have the added costs of being an employer such as pension auto-enrolment and other benefits as could other businesses.

The case has spurred a government review of modern working practices, which is due to make recommendations in June. The man leading the review, Matthew Taylor, told MPs last month said there needs to be greater clarity between the statuses.

Farrar said his case "illustrates just why we need real reform" in the law after the review.

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