Ride-hailing firm Uber has lost its appeal against a ruling that its drivers should be considered as workers with minimum-wage rights, in a case that could have major implications for labour rights in the growing gig economy.
Uber, which claims that drivers are self-employed, said it would launch a further appeal against the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision, meaning the case could be argued in the supreme court next year.
Uber had appealed an Employment Tribunal case last year, brought by two former drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam that ruled that drivers were effectively working for Uber while the app was switched on, and were not able to make themselves available to other operators as Uber claimed.
Challenging the ruling at the tribunal in central London, Uber warned that it could deprive riders of the ''personal flexibility they value''. It added that the majority of its drivers prefer their existing employment status.
According to the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which supported the appeal, drivers will still be able to enjoy the freedoms of self-employment – such as flexibility in choosing shifts – even if they have worker status.
Farrar said, ''It is time for the mayor of London, Transport for London and the transport secretary to step up and use their leverage to defend worker rights rather than turn a blind eye to sweatshop conditions.''
''If Uber are successful in having this business model, obliterating industrial relations as we know them in the UK, then I can guarantee you on every high street, in retail, fast food, any industry you like, the same thing will go on.''
According to commentators, with the decision, Uber may be required to give its drivers rights such as the minimum wage and holiday pay, a move that the company said could fundamentally damage the way it operates.
According to Uber, its drivers are self-employed and it is only an intermediary between drivers and passengers.
Uber has around 50,000 drivers in the UK but its model has drawn criticism from some quarters.