back to article Following Supreme Court ruling, Uber UK recognizes drivers as workers, offers min wage, holiday pay, pension

After years of aggressively fighting any efforts to force it to recognize its drivers as employees, on Tuesday Uber performed a U-turn on the streets of Britain and recognized all of its drivers as working for the company rather than serving as freelancers. The change is the result of a court ruling last month that entitled …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Devil in the detail

    John Bull's written a lot about Uber both for London Reconnections & on Twitter. In a Twitter post last night he points out that Uber are only promising these benefits when someone is driving on a job. Waiting for a job is excluded.

    Also, Uber have to do this after the courts ruling anyway. So it's not Uber being generous, it's Uber doing what a court told it to do.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Devil in the detail

      It's doing some of what the court said it should do.

      The only add-on here is pension & holiday payments, the drivers were already getting well in excess of the minimum wage during actual trips.

      Their wages averaged out throughout the working day will still be far short of minimum wage on many occasions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Devil in the detail

      And there in lies some of the rub: Pretend I have a PH license. I register as an Uber driver and clock /on each morning, but never take any "jobs" from the app. I clock /off at 1700 each day.

      Under the "get paid while logged-in model", I collect minimum wage etc for doing absolutely nothing. You can see why they may not be so keen on that!

      Similarly, I could be a PH driver, working for my local [x]Star cars Private hire firm. Meanwhile, I am also logged in to the Uber app... double bubble!

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Devil in the detail

        If only Uber had had the foresight to accumulate data on historical journeys - and had the sophisticated software to analyse it, they might have been able to forecast demand and roster their "workers" accordingly and use them efficiently.

        Instead, they had to suffer the inconvenience of having far too many of them available and the distress of their costs being driven down as a consequence.

        You have to feel sorry for them.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Devil in the detail

          >You have to feel sorry for them.

          I'm shedding crocodile tears for Uber...

          It doesn't bode well for them to not do as directed by a UK court, lets hope the follow up case backdates the payments (plus interest) to employees to whenever Uber first set up in the UK.

          1. Red Ted
            FAIL

            Re: Devil in the detail

            It doesn't bode well for them to not do as directed by a UK court

            That's called "Contempt of Court".

        2. TheMeerkat

          Re: Devil in the detail

          It will only work if they change the rule and assign jobs to drivers instead of drivers choosing to do them.

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Devil in the detail

        "I'm sorry, but you can't log on to the platform at the moment as we already have 1.000000001 drivers waiting in our virtual taxi rank. Thanks for choosing to drive for Uber. We value your car. Please try again later.

        ☐ click here to be notified when a space in the virtual taxi rank becomes available."

      3. Pinballdave

        Re: Devil in the detail

        That's easily fixed, and needs to be done to comply with the court ruling.

        Uber should ensure that minimum wage is paid for all the time the 'worker' is under direction of the company. If this is all the time that the driver is logged on, then drivers can cheat the system and get paid for doing nothing.

        If, as Uber has now decided, it is to be only when the driver has accepted a job and until completion of that job, then Uber is cheating the driver as the driver is not being paid while they are waiting for jobs.

        Crucially from a legal perspective, this is not complying with the court order, as the worker is still under direction of Uber, as they are waiting for Uber to specify the next task they are to perform, so should still be entitled to minimum wage for this time.

        So the compromise is likely to be that the driver is ensured minimum wage from the point that they accept their first job, until the completion of the job before they either log off, or decline a job. If they decline a job, then they won't have been under direction of the company from the time they completed their precious trip, until the time they next accept a job, so will not be entitled to minimum wage payments for that period.

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Devil in the detail

          "If this is all the time that the driver is logged on, then drivers can cheat the system and get paid for doing nothing"

          We could all do the same, couldn't we? Turn up a work, sign in, look busy doing nothing, drink the free coffee all day, sign out, get paid, cheat the system. Why don't we?

          Uber's no different from other companies in this regard - if they're going to pay their workers an hourly wage (effectively) then they'll need to make sure they're getting value from them. I doubt if the court case has resulted in a wave of philanthropic conversions at the top of Uber or among its backers, so I'd expect there to be some changes to the rules for drivers to accompany the wages and other benefits.

      4. katrinab Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Devil in the detail

        They sack you if you refuse trips. That was one of the deciding factors in the case.

      5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Devil in the detail

        Under the "get paid while logged-in model", I collect minimum wage etc for doing absolutely nothing.

        And this is why people working for other employers never do any work and suffer no consequences. There's absolutely nothing an employer can do about an unproductive employee (or, in this case, "worker").

        Oh, wait.

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "Waiting for a job is excluded"

      Yeah, the union (quoted in our piece) pointed that out, too.

      C.

    4. PerlyKing
      WTF?

      Re: It's not Uber being generous

      Absolutely. This is from an email I received from Uber this morning:

      From today Uber drivers in the UK will be paid holiday time, automatically enrolled into a pension plan, and guaranteed to earn at least the National Living Wage.

      Drivers are an essential part of our everyday lives and we are proud to be making these changes to how they earn with Uber.

      Emphasis added.

      Proud? Proud?! So proud that they fought it through the courts for five years, but no mention of that from Uber!

    5. Chris the bean counter

      Re: Devil in the detail

      Minimum wage should also cover expenses based on 40 hour week which are very high.

      Most drivers own cars unsuitable for Uber so have to lease a prius.

      To reduce risk for the driver they are weekly leases and many drivers dont have the best credit history so have to pay top whack. £250 per week (pre covid may be less now).

      As such the minimum pay needs to be close to £15 an hour...maybe half that during wiating time to achieve minimum wage.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Devil in the detail

        Most drivers own cars unsuitable for Uber so have to lease a prius.

        Really? A majority of Uber drivers in the UK use leased Priuses? I refuse to use Uber, but I've never seen any Uber users in the US picked up or dropped off by a Prius. I know the Prius is a popular vehicle in some circles, but this claim is hard for me to believe.

        I agree with your larger point that Uber drivers incur various expenses which "at least minimum wage while you're on a run" will not adequately cover. Of course, I'm here in the Land of the Ridiculously Inadequate Minimum Wage (Especially for People Who Might Receive Tips), so I'm inclined to view an employer's claim of "it's a living wage!" with suspicion, if not outright disdain.

    6. DoctorPaul

      Re: Devil in the detail

      Hmm, when I was a licenced Hackney Carriage driver in Brighton back in the day I certainly didn't get paid while I was waiting on the rank!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuck uber

    Anything which hastens their demise and increases there losses is a very good thing in my book.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fuck uber

      Yep. Most of this 'sharing economy' stuff seems to be based on avoiding legal responsibility, abusing 'employees' and being loss-making until the existing competition goes away.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fuck uber

        ALL this gig economy stuff is driven from on high because the Tories hate the idea that workers were ever given any rights at all. Owners paying for things for their workers? what planet are you on????

        GIg means 1800's as far as the worker's pay and conditions are concerned (and actually dock workers until relatively recently). Yeah it is spun with the "Flexibility to work when and where you like" shit but that's all that is - spin; so fast it generates its own gravitational anomalies!

    2. czechitout

      Re: Fuck uber

      Why is that? I use Uber when I go to London as black cabs are daylight robbery. Similarly, when abroad you know what you're getting, mainly a fare agreed in advance, therefore no risk of being "long hauled" by dishonest local drivers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fuck uber

        Nether of those are arguments about Uber meeting its societal and social obligations. Would you be happy to use a cab company that guaranteed cheap fares but used slave labour? If you get in an Uber and the driver is paid less than minimum wage you are just socialising your costs onto everyone else through universal credit, housing support etc. And I don't want to pay for your taxi ride. Take the bus!

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Fuck uber

          This - lots.

          The annoying thing is that Uber offer things that my local cabbies don't and I'd be willing to pay a small premium for - clean cabs with heaters, advance pricing, credit cards, turn up on time, bad driver reporting, etc*. The implication that they can only do this by treating their drivers like shit and, as you point out, by offloading social costs onto the rest of us, is complete bollocks.

          *I've never used Uber, so this is what I understand from friends, colleagues and the internet.

          1. TonyJ Silver badge

            Re: Fuck uber

            One of my local private hire firms has an app. You can book on it, see the price you'll pay and pay upfront if you so wish.

            Their drivers are smart and (usually) pleasant and polite and their taxi's are always spotlessly clean and warm.

            You do pay a slight premium over the other PH firms around here but you get all the convenience of Uber, knowing that you are using a firm that pays it's drivers fairly etc.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Fuck uber

              I expect this sort of thing varies widely. I've never had a bad experience with a taxi, minicab, or private-hire in the UK (out of, I dunno, a few dozen trips?), and only once in the US that I can think of -- and that one was really just that the driver got in a shouting match with another driver.

              But I've no doubt other people have.

              On the other hand, some people have also had bad experiences with Uber. So I'm not convinced that Uber, even aside from its various and egregious flaws as an organization, is actually providing objectively better service as a rule.

          2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: Fuck uber

            Then please move to a city or town that has a modern PH company. There's at least 2 local PH in my city that have apps, which take credit card payments, allow for feedback and give you an real-time update on the location of the cabbie. I've never had a dirty or smelly taxi even when used at stupid o'clock.

            Even the local Hackney carriages are of good quality, and not so unreasonable in costs (about 1/3rd more expensive than PH but when it's just there I'm happy to pay for the convenience). They're now available with CC payment as well and the local council regularly inspect the vehicles (even having a manned booth at the largest taxi rank to check the vehicles).

            If your local cabbies don't offer this, then I'd question your local council on how they inspect and monitor taxis in their Borough. As up north it seems rare to find such poor quality service (I know London don't enforce PH car numbers/company being displayed which seems insane to me, not sure about other southern cities but Yorkshire certainly does things alot more regulated).

            1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

              Re: Fuck uber

              Every journey in a cab that's not pre-booked starts with "Do you need a cashpoint cos my card machine's not working." It's odd, because before the law was changed to make credit card surcharges illegal their card machines worked fine. The council don't care; a few years ago they almost doubled the number of Hackney licences and as a result the town's full of crap cabs which are run two or three shifts a day and look as though they haven't been cleaned properly for years. This put a couple of the long established firms out of business because they couldn't make enough money.

              If I pre-book then I've got a local mini-cab firm that's OK and I've got to know a couple of the drivers who I can request for long runs, but picking a cab up on the street is a crap experience and if there were an Uber-type service that didn't treat its drivers like shit then I'd use them, even if they cost more.

          3. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
            Go

            Re: Fuck uber

            On the occasions I had to go to Bristol to meet a client, I found a taxi firm that has an app which lets you see when the cab will arrive (and the app tracks it on a map in real time), what the cost should be (it might be slightly less or slightly more depending on traffic) and the drivers are friendly.

            The vehicles are spotless inside. Highly recommended.

            Eurotaxis

            1. chuBb.

              Re: Fuck uber

              Was gonna say sounds like eurotaxis a2b in brum use the same app and have been excellent in my experience, even dropping me just before pay to exit bit outside departures Hall to avoid extra charges :D

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Fuck uber

          >If you get in an Uber and the driver is paid less than minimum wage you are just socialising your costs onto everyone else through universal credit, housing support etc.

          Well...

          It could be said that Uber's current business model is to socialise their investors monies through massive fare subsidies...

          Interestingly, now Uber are going to have to pay their drivers more, the busines case for driverless taxi's has just been given a boost, so expect more investors queuing up to socialise their monies by investing in Uber... However, once Uber has the monopoly it so desperately desires, expect a rude awakening...

    3. dave 81

      Re: Fuck uber

      Still going to use UBER over a thieving black cab any day. I would rather UBER were a nice employer rather than screwing 70000 drivers with their demise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fuck uber

        Quite. That's why I buy my cotton from Uzbekistan and Xinjiang rather than from those rip off merchants in Marks and Spencer. Of course, it would be better if the cotton pickers were paid, but if they weren't slaving in the fields they would be locked up in re-education camps, so I'm really doing them a favour.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    So we now have...

    So we now have four categories of working relationship

    Employees on a contract of service who have employment rights and benefits but no liability, are taxed via the party they work for and get their expenses reimbursed

    Workers on contract for services who have employment rights and benefits but no liability, are taxed via the party they work for and get their expenses reimbursed

    Self employed on contract for services who have to provide their own employment rights, have full liability, are taxed independently and can claim their expenses against tax

    and (wait for it)

    IR35 "disguised employees" on weird amorphous contractual terms who have zero employment rights, full liability, are taxed via the party they work for and are actually prohibited from recovering all their business expenses. The sad thing is that you don't have to be a genuinely disguised employee, just to be deemed so by the party that as a result won't have to provide you with employment rights. There would seem to be an incentive there to bias the decision towards "within IR35".

    So I'm surprised that Uber drivers haven't been deemed "within IR35" as it would have saved Uber all those benefits that contractors elsewhere have formally been denied.

    1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: So we now have...

      It is because of the IR35 nonsense that I stopped doing freelance. I was never inside IR35 but the situation is now so ridiculous that it is necessary to take out insurance just in case HMRC decide to investigate you.

      The primary thing the government gets from the 'inside IR35' thing is employers National Insurance but it is (illegally) being subtracted from the contractor day rates in many cases. There is the expense thing too, admittedly, which is definitely wrong; if a large company can subtract travel expenses, why can't a small (1 person) company do the same? That never made any sense to me.

      By putting the most vulnerable people inside IR35 who then make much less and often don't make enough to eat properly, we are socialising those costs, which looks like it brings in less money when all that is calculated in (HMRC won't do that calculation, of course).

      In a truly ironic twist of fate, I am now full time employed but working from my home office about 29 days out of 30 (or perhaps slightly more) so it really isn't much different in terms of work environment and because I am over the state pension age, I no longer pay employee NI.

      Quite a net loss to HMRC, really, and quite a gain for me (paid holidays and all that).

  4. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    Taxi firms cant compete so demand Uber is to be made into a taxi firm. Thats one way to protect yourself from competition.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      Uber can't compete with taxi firms, so abdicates a bunch of legal responsibilities to enable it to compete. That's one way to protect yourself from competition.

      1. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        Hotel chains can't compete with Airbnb either. Classified advertising on physical newspapers can't compete with online version. The world is changing.

        I've used Uber on holiday. Especially when exploring new places I find the predictability, track-ability, scam-proofness and payment method great.

        I remember a ride in Tasmania where the gaffer driving said he did it to keep active and meet people, plus pocket money on top of his pension.

        The problem is that the established industry doesn't want to compete with a perfectly valid side hustle.

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        @AC

        "Uber can't compete with taxi firms, so abdicates a bunch of legal responsibilities to enable it to compete."

        Do you remember taxi's before Uber? I dont use Uber but I can tell you the taxi service has vastly improved in service because it had to. It was stagnant and had no competition. Then Uber changes the model, upsets the established order and people want to work for it (and of course people want to use the service).

        The loser in all that is the established order who suddenly had to up their game and turn up quicker and be more accessible. Just because taxi firms cant compete with not-a-taxi-firm doesnt mean not-a-taxi-firm needs to be legally forced to become one.

        1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Hmm

          I both agree and disagree with codejunky, which is an awkward position to be in. I agree that Uber and Lyft have forced the traditional taxi firms to raise their game and that the taxi firms had benefited from decades of government-mandated monopoly that Uber and Lyft disrupted, to the universal benefit of the consumer. Where I disagree is that Uber and Lyft's gross abuse of their drivers is the only way forward. If the business model is truly effective, then they can pay their drivers a living wage and benefits.

  5. xyz Silver badge

    Call the drivers developers..

    Then HMRC can unleash its IR35 dogs of compliance.

  6. Mr Dogshit
    FAIL

    They've lost their USP

    Uber can't obtain cars cheaper than anyone else, or fuel cheaper than anyone else, the only differentiator is that they pay their drivers a pittance. Now they can no longer do that. And they've never made a profit, so file this under Ponzi scheme.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: They've lost their USP

      From a consumer perspective, their USP was reliable, predictable service and charges with a minimum of fuss compared to a conventional taxi. Hailing an Uber was a revelation in simplicity compared to getting a taxi. Taxi firms have somewhat risen to the challenge, but the experience of getting an Uber or Lyft is still superior to getting a conventional cab. Ironically, Uber could probably have charged more for their service and turned a profit just on the basis of working better than regular cabs.

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    £8.72 an hour for working?

    But only £4.36 while driving past a school and £0.00 while stopped at a traffic light or waiting to make a turn onto the main road?

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