Daily Management Review

Uber defends its business model, safety of drivers, at UK tribunal


Facing strong headwinds stemming from its past management practices, Uber will try to defend itself against mounting criticism while capitalizing on growing sympathies. Here’s the scoop of its legal setbacks as well as silver lining of its potential future.

Less than a week after Uber was told it would be stripped of its license to operate in London, the ride-services company has argued before a British employment appeal tribunal that its drivers are not its workers who are entitled to a range of benefits; they are in fact self-employed.

Uber has faced strong headwinds from traditional taxi services along with regulatory and legal setbacks and has been forced out from several countries including, Hungary and Denmark.

Losing its license in London, one of the world’s wealthiest cities, has been one of its biggest setbacks so far. It has however some reprieve since it can continue to operate during its appeal, which could last months.

Significantly, in 2016, two of its drivers had successfully argued before a tribunal that Uber exerted sufficient control over them in order for them to provide an on-demand taxi service and thus had responsibilities in terms of workers’ rights.

At the two-day appeal hearing, beginning from Wednesday, as per a court filing, Uber is likely to argue that its drivers are self-employed and work the same way as those at long-established local taxi firms.

Uber’s arguments hinges on the fact that those who are self-employed are entitled only to basic protections such as health and safety, as opposed to workers on its payroll who are entitled to paid holidays, minimum wage and rest breaks.

Almost all taxi and private-hire drivers have been self-employed for decades before our app existed,” said Uber’s spokesman before Wednesday’s hearing.

“Uber drivers have more control and are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts or minimum hours”.

On Wednesday, nearly 200 trade union-led protesters marched through central London against what they deem “precarious labor” in the “gig economy”, where people work for various employers at the same time without fixed contracts.

Some however have disliked the decision to ban Uber from London saying the it should be allowed to operate on the condition of granting its workers more rights.

In a related development, Uber is facing challenges with law firm, Leigh Day, saying it would represent a female driver who claims that Uber is putting her and other female drivers at risks since they do not know the passenger’s destination until they board the car; this could mean they could be required to travel to remote or unsafe areas.

As per Uber’s spokesman drivers can cancel trips without incurring any sorts of penalties; they need not go to a particular area if they did not want to. In fact women drivers have opted for Uber due to its safety features.

“One of the main reasons why women choose to drive with Uber is because of the safety features in the app. All trips are GPS tracked and a driver is able to share a live map of their trip with a friend or loved one,” said Uber’s spokesman.