Uber is at the centre of what is being described as the biggest employment law case this year, with drivers across the UK currently eagerly awaiting the ruling from an employment tribunal that will decide whether they should be entitled to sick and holiday pay.
Uber’s rapid growth has not been free from controversy and this is just the latest in a series of battles for the company; however, the popularity of the service is undeniable. There are around 30,000 individuals driving for Uber in London alone and, with the company now operating in many other cities in the UK, the number of drivers is only increasing.
The case was brought back in July when a group of 19 Uber drivers questioned their self-employed status, with the full support of the GMB union. Uber states that it is a technology company with an app that brings drivers and customer together, not a transport company. It also maintains that as drivers can choose when they work, they should be classed as self-employed.
Lawyers representing the drivers examined the employment terms and conditions closely. They state that Uber drivers should not be classed as self-employed, as drivers are not aware of where they are taking the customer before they enter the car and there is a rating system in place. If the ruling goes in the drivers’ favour, they will be entitled to the same benefits as workers who are directly employed by a company, such as pension contributions and holiday pay.
When a number of drivers were asked about their experience with Uber, some of the responses were shocking; for example, one driver claimed that he was earning just over £5 an hour at one point. Uber takes between 20% and 25% in commission every week from each driver.
Many drivers have had positive experiences with the company. The flexible working means that drivers can work when they want, with many driving part time to supplement their income. Drivers are also able to see exactly whom they are picking up, which provides an additional layer of security and reassurance.
The drivers agree that more should be done to ensure every driver earns a fair wage for the work they do. Uber states that the average income after commission is £16 per hour; however, many drivers report that their hourly earnings are closer to £7 once all expenses, such as insurance, are accounted for.
In recent years there has been a rise in the number of companies using the services of self-employed individuals as opposed to directly hiring employees, with many closely monitoring the outcome of this case. If the tribunal rules in the drivers’ favour, we could see wider implications across a number of industries.
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