Note: there is an update here.

Uber is facing legal action in the form of tribunal claims in the UK from the GMB workers union on behalf of Uber’s drivers as they argue that the taxi booking-firm does not maintain their working rights.

Uber uses drivers on a self-employment basis but the line between self-employed contractor and employee is not easy to draw. ‘Edge cases’ have been stumping employment solicitors and employment tribunals for years. Calling drivers self-employed simplifies many areas of employment law for an employer.

Tribunal claims for Uber 1
Image courtesy of AESanfalcon, licensed under CC

However there is a grey area in between self-employed and employee called ‘worker’, to whom some employment law rights do attach, although the full complement of employment laws don’t apply.

The union is alleging Uber are:

  • Not ensuring drivers are receiving the minimum wage
  • Failing to ensure drivers are paid holiday pay; and
  • Not monitoring that drivers get appropriate rest breaks

Uber currently pays its drivers through transferring a percentage of what passengers pay to the driver. The national minimum wage for people over 25 is effectively set at £7.20 per hour.

Almost every worker has a legal right to take 5.6 weeks paid holidays. This is calculated by multiplying the amount that you make in a week by 5.6 weeks, which for an employee working five days per week is 28 days including bank holidays.

The rules on working time and rest breaks are complicated but a worker is entitled to a 20 minute break after 6 hours, 24 hours of rest every week and 11 hours of rest every day. The purpose of these rules is primarily health and safety, which is an appealing argument to employment tribunals in finding for claimants.

The risk Uber faces is that breaching employment rights can result in claims for damages from the claimant drivers in their employment tribunal claims. However Uber also faces potential damage to its reputation as a serious player in the economy.

By Jason Harbourne