Every so often a company comes along that challenges and sometimes upends traditional workplace norms. Increasingly the ride hailing app company Uber seems to be taking up this mantle in the world of contracting.
The main question up for debate is that of whether or not drivers obtaining clients through the app are employees or contractors.
A war of words has erupted between the firm and the GMB union in light of a tribunal lodged by the Union on behalf of two drivers. After the tribunal ruled that the driver’s using the firm’s app were not contractors but in fact employees Uber quickly went on the defensive emailing its 40,000 UK drivers to underline that the judgement would only affect the two drivers involved in the case.
Taking issue with this the GMB union leaked the email on Twitter chastising Uber whilst assuring other drivers that the ruling would indeed apply to them.
It would seem that feelings are running high not just for the parties concerned question with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) for one blasting the ruling as ludicrous. They point out how Uber is no different from other sharing platforms, Airbnb and eBay being two such examples, and to expect those companies to start offering sick pay and holidays to individuals is laughable.
However it should be noted that Judge Anthony Snelson who lead the three person tribunal dismissed Uber’s arguments that it’s “merely a platform that links tens of thousands of self-employed drivers together” as “ridiculous”. Snelson also accused Uber of resorting to “brand new terminology” to explain the relationship with drivers.
While Uber has said it will appeal the tribunal’s decision what is perhaps most interesting is the potential emergence of a new form of contracting and how the law will adapt to such a change. The line between employment and being self-employed is increasingly blurred in what has been referred to as a “gig economy”.
Uber may be the big test when it comes to deciding how the law will treat new business models such as Deliveroo and Amazon Prime Now and we could see huge shake up in an industry struggling to adapt to ever more faced paced societal changes