Uber says its UK drivers are ‘workers’, not employees


For years, Uber has deployed lobbyists in global capitals to protect its business model. His lawyers argued that Uber drivers are independent contractors who use a service that connects them with people who need to travel. Uber? It’s just a technology company connecting customers and business people.

For a long time, this argument worked. Now, following a decision by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Uber has changed, saying it will treat its UK drivers like workers. This unusual job category – used in the UK – entitles drivers to minimum wage guarantees after expenses, paid holidays and pension contributions; but the drivers will not be employees. Just a few weeks ago, Uber insisted that the case only applied to a handful of workers. The new policy will not apply to workers at Uber Eats, the company’s growing delivery service.

“It’s a pretty big turnaround, not only on Uber’s stance over the past decade, but also on its stance since the Supreme Court ruling,” says Paul Jennings, employment lawyer and discrimination within Bates Wells law firm, which represented a group of Uber drivers in the case that ended up in the Supreme Court. The UK is responsible for 6.4% of the company’s mobile phone business. Following the news, Uber shares were down 4% on Wednesday afternoon.

But Uber’s announcement is far from a clear victory for drivers and will likely lead to more legal wrangling, in the UK and elsewhere. It also shows how Uber grows more and more for the recognition of a “third category” of work, offering site workers certain traditional job protections, but falling well below those offered to employees.

As UK workers – but not employees – drivers will not have access to sickness pay, parental leave or emergency leave, and will have fewer protections against unfair dismissals. In the United States, where workers are either employees or independent contractors, those who are not employees do not have access to employer-paid health insurance or compensation for business expenses, such as vehicle maintenance and gasoline.

In the UK, Uber’s new policy comes with an additional caveat: the minimum wage only applies to the time drivers spend picking up or driving passengers, but not the time they spend picking up or driving passengers. ‘they switch to logging in to the app and looking for routes. This time represents an important part of the working hours of the drivers. Drivers involved in the Supreme Court case estimate UK Uber drivers spend 40 to 50 percent of their time researching new fares; a recent study of wrinkle-hail drivers in Seattle, drivers spend 36% of their time waiting for trips.

As a result, Uber’s minimum wage is porous, says Mark Graham, professor of internet geography at the Oxford Internet Institute and director of the Fairwork Foundation, a concert-based research and advocacy organization. “You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and expect a waiter to only get paid when he brings you food, or for a shop employee to only get paid when there are customers. in the store, ”he says. “It’s definitely a good thing that Uber is now thinking about minimum wage. But they think about it in a limited way, which will allow workers to fall below “the norm”.

It is also unclear how Uber will compensate its UK drivers for the expenses. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to questions.

Uber’s approach to paying drivers in the UK echoes Proposition 22, the California poll that measures Uber and other companies spent over $ 200 million to promote last year – and which voters strongly endorsed. This law requires joint companies to pay transport and delivery workers 120 percent of the local minimum wage, but only for the time they spend traveling. Proposition 22 also requires concert companies to contribute to accident insurance, workers’ compensation and a health care subsidy, but only for drivers who drive a certain number of hours per week.

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