Uber drivers’ worker status should be upheld, court hears

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A landmark ruling that Uber drivers are “workers” and therefore entitled to employment rights should be upheld, the Court of Appeal has heard.

The ride-hailing firm is attempting to overturn employment tribunal findings which could pave the way for tens of thousands of its drivers in the UK to receive the national minimum wage and paid holiday.

At a hearing in London on Tuesday, Jason Galbraith-Marten QC, representing former drivers and Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, said the previous findings that the drivers were “workers” were properly reached on the evidence.

Uber vehicle
Uber is contesting the Employment Appeal Tribunal finding (Laura Dale/PA)

Last November, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed Uber’s appeal against an earlier tribunal ruling that Mr Aslam and Mr Farrar were “workers” at the time they were operating for Uber.

Uber contends that both tribunals “erred in law” in concluding that the pair were workers, submitting that it “wrongly disregarded the written contracts in which the parties’ agreements were recorded”.

But Mr Galbraith-Marten said the tribunals did not have to “construe a written agreement”, but rather determine the relationship between Uber and its drivers “from all the relevant circumstances, of which the written agreements are just one”.

The barrister also said that the relationship between Uber and its drivers was “inconsistent with a relationship of agency”, noting that Uber “retains ‘sole and absolute discretion’ to decline bookings” and “deliberately does not tell the driver the destination… before pick up”.

Dinah Rose QC, for Uber, earlier told the court that the tribunals “misunderstood or failed to apply basic principles of agency law” and had “treated as bizarre or absurd normal relationships widespread in the industry”.

She said Uber’s “agency model” was “typical of the private hire industry” and had been used “for many years”.

Speaking outside court, Mr Farrar said the case had “snowballed” since he first took it on three years ago, adding: “It does end up taking over your life.”

He said: “There is a rising tide of demand from precarious workers.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘if you don’t like it just go and work somewhere else’. The problem is the conditions are repeated across the economy.”

Mr Farrar said the case was now bigger than the outcome for himself and his fellow claimants: “There is a lot at stake. If we lose this, all those [other] people will be affected.”

He added: “Myself and Yaseen should not be here today. The Government should be enforcing the law.

“Uber’s first responsibility is to obey the law and the Government’s first responsibility is to enforce the law and protect people.”

The hearing will conclude on Wednesday and judgment is expected to be reserved.

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