Thu, 15 April 2021

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By Simon Burns
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Uber Drivers Claim 50% Of Working Time “Still Not Paid Or Protected” After Supreme Court Ruling

Uber Drivers Claim 50% Of Working Time “Still Not Paid Or Protected” After Supreme Court Ruling

Uber has agreed to implement part of a court ruling which said its drivers should be treated as workers (Alamy)

3 min read

Campaigners have welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that forces Uber to treat more than 70,000 drivers as workers under UK employment law, but say up to 50% of their time is “still not being paid or protected”.

They say the landmark decision that means those working for the ride-hailing app will be entitled to holiday pay, pension contributions and minimum wage is “a step in the right direction”, but said there was much more it needed to do to stop drivers still being short-changed.

News of the ruling was hailed as "an important day” by Jamie Heywood, Uber's regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, but the GMB union highlighted the company had to be “dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing" after a long-running legal battle.

Drivers have argued they were workers, and entitled to employee benefits, while Uber said they were self-employed contractors, and did not have to offer the same protections and payments as if they were staff.

But former Uber driver James Farrar, who originally brought the claim against the firm alongside fellow driver Yaseen Aslam, said the company must go further and allow drivers to accrue minimum wage and holiday pay from when they log in, not just from when a trip is accepted.

"About 40-50% of your working time is still not being paid or protected even though the law requires it does,” told PA.

"If you go to work for Starbucks and no customers come into the shop should you still be paid? Of course you should.

"This is a step in the right direction but we are not there yet."Farrar said drivers still do not have sick pay or protection from unfair dismissal, and they will be going back to court to force Uber to go further.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady also believed there was still more work to be done to support Uber drivers.  

“Now we need to take it to the next level," she told the PA News agency this morning.  

"We will be pushing hard for Uber and other platform companies to recognise unions and give staff a proper voice at work.

"Gig workers deserve the same basic rights as everybody else. Unions won't rest until pay and conditions have improved across the gig economy.Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the ruling was “absolutely to be welcomed”. 

"I've always said that the new phase of our economy should be about protecting workers' rights, driving higher standards and driving new technologies," he told Sky News.

"I think that the Government's record on things like the national living wage that we introduced has been very good and we want to see a well paid workforce with strong worker protections, driving innovation and economic progress and I think that is something we can achieve.”

Employment tribunals and the Court of Appeal had previously ruled against the American tech company, which then appealed to the UK’s Supreme Court.

But after judges unanimously dismissed the case last month Uber has sought to start implementing the ruling.

Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow employment rights and protections secretary, said the announcement was testament to the hard work of the GMB trade unions and drivers, but criticised Uber for having taken to long to grant workers rights.  

"[It] should not have taken five years of court battles for drivers to get basic rights at work," he said. 

"The Supreme Court ruling sent a clear message that companies should not game the system by undercutting the rights of their employees. Gig economy workers under similar arrangements across the economy must now also be recognised as workers.

"The Government must not leave it to low-paid and precarious workers to spend time and money they can ill afford to fight for their rights in the courts."

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