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UK Uber drivers win landmark employment tribunal

After losing an employment tribunal in London last week, ride-hailing app Uber may now have to provide its 40,000 UK drivers with the national minimum wage, holiday and sick pay.

Brought forward by two drivers on behalf of 19 Uber workers, the landmark tribunal is the culmination of over a year’s legal action. James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam argued that they, and other drivers, were employees of Uber and not self-employed workers. The long-awaited tribunal ruled that the app company’s drivers were in fact classed as employees of Uber, and not independent contractors. While the ruling has been interpreted as a victory for the tens of thousands of UK drivers that use the Uber app, the San Francisco-based company itself has announced its intention to appeal the decision.

In the evolving workplace of the gig economy, Uber operates among a vast number of companies using a similar business model, such as cycle courier service CitySprint and food delivery company Deliveroo. With the continued growth and emergence of such companies in mind, last Friday’s ruling further underlines the clear need for a review of the gig economy. While the Uber case is the first of its kind, commentators have speculated that similar cases are likely to ensue.

The gig economy presents businesses with access to a large and skilled workforce. In previous articles we have discussed at length the benefits of this new way of working for both businesses and workers, however the infrastructure that is desperately required to support this model does not exist. Across the staffing sector as a whole, there is an evident need for clarity around the gig economy, and businesses must be putting in place clear structures to support gig workers and contractors.

The Uber ruling may or may not set a precedent for similar businesses, however governments and companies must soon recognise the need for more stratification and act before further legal cases arise. The gig economy presents endless opportunities for businesses and workers alike, however the fact remains that better infrastructure is needed to support this way of working. While the implications of the Uber tribunal are yet to be fully realised, there will undoubtedly be a ripple effect across the staffing sector. In the meantime, we await the outcome of Uber’s appeal on the ruling.

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