Loss of flexibility could prove an own goal for Uber drivers

Uber’s decision to pay the national living wage, holiday entitlement and pension contributions could remove one of the fundamental attractions of working in the gig economy, according to employment experts at Thursfield Solicitors.

Helena Morrissey, director and head of employment at Thursfields, said: “Uber drivers are today celebrating the Supreme Court decision that they should be treated as ‘workers’  and are therefore entitled to paid holiday, pensions and the national living wage.

“This clearly has implications for the wider gig-economy too, as it is likely that these rights will be replicated elsewhere for thousands of others currently categorized as ‘self-employed’. This would seem to be a huge success story for such workers who, until now, have had no guaranteed minimum income.

“However, this ruling could erode one of the fundamental benefits of this type of business model, namely, the flexibility it offers individuals.”

Generally speaking, workers in the gig-economy can “log on” and ‘”log off” as they please, but the Supreme Court has determined that Uber drivers should be paid the national living wage not just for the time that drivers are actually carrying passengers in their taxi, but from the moment they log on to the moment they log out of the system.

In other words, waiting time is deemed to be working time, not just driving time.

Ms Morrissey added: “On the face of it, this is good news for the drivers, but it is quite likely that this will result in Uber placing restrictions on the number of hours drivers can work and will even limit the number of drivers who can be logged into the system at any one time, so as to control costs.

“This would, of course, restrict the drivers’ ability to log on and off at will – one of the fundamental benefits of the gig economy.

“Although there is clearly a benefit to having a guaranteed minimum income, is the curtailment of the freedom of drivers to choose their own working hours a price worth paying?”

Employers who have concerns over employment status can contact our Employment Law Solicitors on 0345 20 73 72 8 or info@thursfields.co.uk.

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