Uber has dismissed the allegations that it treats drivers differently from other minicab firms in London as it appeals a legal ruling that the company owed workers rights to its drivers including holiday leave and sick pay.
The ride-hailing app said that the company’s business model of treating its 40,000 London drivers as self-employed individuals and assigning them jobs through an app was no different to the one that minicab firms have practised for years, just on a “much larger scale”.
The appeal is unrelated to Uber not being allowed to renew its private hire licence in London last week, which the business is also challenging.
On Wednesday, Dinah Rose QC, acting for Uber, attempted to distance the company from the “gig economy” phenomenon.
In documents ahead of the appeal, she drafted: “The tribunal will be aware of the public, press and political attention recently attracted by concerns over the gig economy. Uber’s business model has often been held out as an example of this phenomenon.
“The position of drivers who use the app is materially identical to the (familiar and long-established) position of self-employed private hire drivers who operate under the auspices of traditional minicab firms.”
Uber has been reprimanded on several fronts for the way it treats drivers, who are treated as independent contractors, with the app of the company simply a matchmaker for drivers and passengers that carries a fee.
The employment tribunal case filed by two drivers in 2016 discovered that they were workers and therefore were entitled to receive certain benefits and Uber was granted the right to appeal earlier in 2017.
The company stated that drivers, who can log in and out of the app at will, appreciate the flexibility of driving for Uber and that if they were treated as workers, they might have to be assigned shifts. Rose stated that drivers made an average of £15 per hour in 2016 after the cut of Uber was deducted.
Yaseen Aslam, one of the claimants in the tribunal, supported by the Independent Workers’ Union, informed protesters before the hearing that “drivers have been pushed into hardship by Uber.”
On Thursday, the appeal is scheduled to continue. However, a decision is no likely to come for months. The case is seen as a landmark for the gig economy.