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TEAM News

Taxi for Uber?

If you’ve caught up with the news today, you’ll have seen that Uber has once again hit the headlines. Transport for London (TfL) has taken the surprising decision not to renew Uber’s private taxi licence, when it expires at the end of the month. TfL cites Uber’s “approach to reporting serious criminal offences” as one particular cause for concern. Uber have 21 days to appeal.

Whilst ensuring public safety and security is obviously of paramount concern in the capital, to say the app is widely used there is an understatement. Aside from the Londoners who regularly use the app to get around, there are thought to be in the region of 40,000 drivers who rely on the app as a source of income. What will the impact be on them?

The answer to that question, brings us back to the issue which Uber dominated the news for last year – employment status. You may recall that late last year, an employment tribunal found that Uber’s drivers should be classed as workers, rather than self-employed (see our blog here). Whilst workers have greater employment rights than the self-employed, their rights still fall short of those conferred on employees.

If Uber drivers were employees, then TfL’s decision (provided any appeal was unsuccessful) would undoubtedly have resulted in a massive collective redundancy exercise. Uber would have been under a duty to consult with the drivers; to try and avoid the redundancies and to look for suitable alternative employment. Because Uber’s drivers are classed as workers, Uber is not under these obligations and the drivers will not be entitled to any redundancy pay.

Whilst I’m not disputing TfL’s decision, there’s no doubt that it highlights the lack of employment rights in the gig economy. It will be interesting to see whether the number of affected workers in this case is an impetus for change.