A tribunal is going to decide whether Uber drivers are entitled to receive the minimum wage as well as sickness and holiday pay.
An employment tribunal in London will today make a landmark ruling that could set a precedent for the UK’s so-called gig economy.
Two Uber drivers have brought a case against the car hire service which strikes at the heart of the business model that helped the company grow to be worth billions of pounds worldwide in less than a decade.
The drivers claim that Uber is acting unlawfully by denying them basic workers’ rights such as the minimum wage along with sick and holiday pay.
Uber insists its 40,000 drivers are “partners” and self-employed, meaning they are not entitled to these benefits.
Sky News spoke to Henry, who has been working exclusively as an Uber driver for two years. He says he works 14-hour days in order to earn a weekly salary of about £300.
He explained: “Uber is a very big company and they are recruiting every single day so you can’t argue with them. That is what is worrying, you could lose your job at any time.”
Jason Moyer-Lee is the leader of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, and is calling for a change to employment law to ensure workers in the sector are treated fairly.
He said: “The so-called gig economy is a euphemism for exploitation.
“It’s basically a model that big profit-making companies have developed where they have realised, for the most part, they can get away with having lots of workers who work for them, often exclusively, and help them make their profits.
“But they don’t provide these people with the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay or pensions and everything that workers across the country have come to take for granted.”
But not everyone is unhappy with the kind of work that the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and TaskRabbit offer, and instead enjoy the flexibility.
Viktor is developing his own software company alongside being an Uber driver.
He said: “I think Uber is fantastic, I don’t work for anybody or serve anybody. In fact I use it to help me network and get extra money when I need it.”
The so-called gig or sharing economy has boomed in the UK.
Deliveroo is another company embroiled in the row over workers’ rights
According to official figures, the number of people registered as self-employed rose to 4.8 million in August this year – accounting for 15% of the UK population.
As for Uber, it has two million users in London alone and they make around one million trips a week.
For many people using the one-off, on-demand services for takeaways, odd jobs or taxi rides is a convenience but critics say it’s fuelling inequality, with big companies growing at the expense of others less fortunate.
The tribunal’s decision could have huge implications not just for Uber and its drivers but for all those invested in the UK’s gig economy.
If Uber loses, it may radically change how companies in the sector do business and how they treat those that work for them.
But if the case goes against the drivers, experts say it would validate this type of flexible working and encourage more on-demand services into the market.