Uber drivers in employment rights test case

Posted: 28th October 2016

CabsTaxi app phenomenon Uber has suffered a serious blow to its business model after its claim that it works for its 30,000 London drivers, rather than the other way round, was dismissed as pure fiction by an Employment Tribunal (ET). The ruling means that Uber drivers have all the rights of ordinary employees.

The test case was brought by a number of past and present Uber drivers whose lawyers successfully argued that they were entitled to the full gamut of protections afforded by the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Working Time Regulations 1998 and the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.

Uber submitted that it did not provide transportation services. Via its smartphone app, it made available a platform on which a mosaic of 30,000 independent small businesses operated. In rejecting those arguments, however, the ET quoted Queen Gertrude’s most celebrated line, ‘the lady doth protest too much’.

The documentation that passed between Uber and its drivers contained twisted language and outright fictions that merited a degree of scepticism. It was unreal to deny that Uber was not in business as a supplier of transportation services, nor could it sensibly be viewed as merely supplying drivers with ‘leads’.

The supposed contractual relationship between drivers and their passengers was a pure fiction which bore no relationship to the way in which Uber really operated. In the circumstances, the only sensible interpretation was that the drivers ‘worked for’ Uber, providing the skilled labour through which the company delivered its services and generated its profits.