Following last month’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that the app-based taxi service Uber is not simply a technology company – as it had claimed – but a transport firm, a prominent expert on flexible working and professional contracting has warned that it must not engage in a “race to the bottom” to suppress workers’ legal rights.
Speaking to Global Recruiter, Dave Chaplin, CEO and founder of the online support and advice portal for contracting professionals ContractorCalculator, said:
“There is no doubt that Uber provides a great service. But they should not be allowed to compete unfairly on price by circumventing regulations that enable them to have a lower cost base than others in the same market.”
Acknowledging that employment rights for Uber workers were a contentious issue, Chaplin maintained that it still needed to be addressed, as the recent Taylor Review into modern working practices had made clear.
He went on, “Otherwise we risk a race to the bottom whereby firms compete by suppressing the rights of their workers to save money.”
In conclusion, Chaplin conceded that government has to contend with an exceedingly difficult balancing act: ensuring that legislation is effective in protecting workers who want employee rights but also helping those who opt for self-employment in order to thrive. In short, government had to concentrate on “maintaining the value the flexible workforce delivers to UK Plc.”
Uber has suffered some setbacks during the course of 2017, notably losing its licence to operate in London after Transport for London decided to withdraw it, and suffering a rejection of its appeal against an earlier tribunal ruling that it’s drivers were employees, not independent contracting workers.
Matthew Taylor has in fact been critical of the latter ruling, which was made in November last year and upheld the claim brought by two Uber drivers that they were effectively working for the company while the app was switched on as they were unable to make themselves available to work for other operators when this was the case.
Speaking shorty after the ruling, Mr Taylor said that the drivers were trying to obtain “the best of both worlds” by demanding worker right while simultaneously maintaining self-employed status for tax purposes.
The ruling, which Uber says it will appeal in the Supreme Court, would oblige the company to pay its drivers paid parental leave, the minimum wage and paid holiday leave.
Taylor said that worker rights combined with the tax status of a self-employed contractor put Uber drivers “in a very privileged position.”