TfL’s Uber decision highlights vulnerability of gig workers

Transport for London’s decision to not issue ride hailing app Uber’s private hire licence highlights the precarious nature of gig working, say lawyers.

Late last week, TfL issued a statement in which it had concluded Uber was not fit and proper to hold a London private hire operator licence, adding it took its decision on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.

Uber confirmed it would appeal the decision.

Commenting on what TfL’s decision means for gig working, Nick Elwell-Sutton, employment partner at law firm Clyde & Co, said in a statement the decision highlighted the vulnerability of gig economy workers. 

“Because they are classed as ‘workers’ rather than employees, there will be no right to a redundancy payment and no obligation to consult. Instead, Uber just needs to serve contractual notice to terminate.

“40,000 [drivers] are potentially losing their jobs, and whilst in future they could work as traditional mini-cab drivers, without the technology overlay of the Uber app, they would be self-employed and end up with no rights at all rather than the limited ‘worker’ rights they currently have with Uber.”

Jacqueline McDermott, consultant solicitor at law firm Keystone Law, agrees. She told Recruiter: “While Uber drivers succeeded in their claim to be treated as workers, they do not have the same status or the full rights of employees. 

“While they are entitled to sick pay and holiday, along with some other benefits that employees are entitled to, they are not able to claim unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment. So long as their contracts are terminated on whatever notice period is stated in the contract, they may not be entitled to anything else.”

Next month, Matthew Taylor, the head of the Royal Society of Arts and a former adviser to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair is to appear before two Parliamentary Select Committees following this summer’s publication of his review into modern working practices including the gig economy.
He was first asked to conduct his review in November 2016, reporting his findings in July.

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