App-based taxi service Uber has suffered another setback this week after its attempt to take its appeal against a recent workers’ rights decision directly to the Supreme Court, instead of the Court of Appeal, was knocked down.
Uber had sought to go directly to the Supreme Court after the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) last month upheld a 2016 Central London Employment Tribunal ruling that two of its drivers – Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar – were employees of the company, not freelance contracting workers. As employees, they would be entitled to a range of statutory benefits such as the minimum wage, paid rest breaks and paid holiday pay.
The company attempted to move directly to the Supreme Court in its appeal against the ruling “in order that [it] can be resolved sooner rather than later.”
The union representing the two drivers, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), announced this week, however, that Uber’s application has been rejected, so that its appeal will now have to proceed through the Court of Appeal instead.
IWGB general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee said that the latest decision was another setback to Uber’s legal strategy of “denying workers their rights.”
He added, “The IWGB would encourage Uber yet again to stop wasting everyone’s time and simply focus on providing minimum wages and holiday pay to the thousands of drivers who have been deprived of their rights for years.”
At the time of writing, Uber has so far declined to comment on the latest development, except to point out that the ruling will mean requiring its drivers to work in shifts, thereby removing the flexibility the company says they enjoy.
Last month, Chris Bryce, CEO of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed described the EAT’s decision as “astonishing” as it wholly failed to acknowledge a key difference between workers and freelancers or contracting professionals: the latter are free to decline work of they don’t wish to take it on, while the former are obliged to work regardless of their wishes.
He added, “People driving through the Uber app, really value the flexibility they have using platform based working. IPSE is concerned that ruling drivers as workers would hit the flexibility they seek out. IPSE’s 5,500 driver members constantly tell us they enjoy that flexibility and prefer to be self-employed.”
Bryce called for a statutory definition of self-employment.
Earlier this month, Matthew Taylor, who headed the Government-commissioned review into modern working practices, criticised Uber drivers for seeking to “the best of both worlds” by gaining employment rights while retaining self-employed tax status, granting them “a very privileged position.”