Uber has lost an appeal against a landmark ruling on the employment rights of its drivers.
Two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, won a case against the ride-hailing app last year after arguing they were workers and entitled to the minimum wage, sick pay, paid holiday and breaks.
During its failed attempt to overturn the decision at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London, Uber claimed the ruling could deprive drivers of the “personal flexibility they value”.
The company, which is also battling Transport for London over its licence to operate in the capital, said it would appeal against Friday’s judgment.
In a statement, it said: “Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed.
Image: The tech firm claims its drivers are ‘partners’ and not workers
“The main reason why drivers use Uber is because they value the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive and so we intend to appeal.”
Mr Farrar, 49, said he was “really disappointed” over Uber’s intention to appeal, adding it had “an army of lawyers paid for by exploiting labour”.
The driver added: “We can’t give up because the case law is so important now that if we give up and give this victory to Uber, then the battle will be so much harder for everybody else that comes after us – not just Uber drivers, but people right across the economy.
“Because if Uber gets away with this, then everywhere you turn in Britain, industrial Britain, you’ll have people under this sort of fake self-employed conditions, carrying all the risk of the business with no worker rights.”
Calling on Uber to “throw in the towel”, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No company, however big or well-connected, is above the law.
Image: James Farrar (L) and Yaseen Aslam (R) won a case against Uber last year
“Uber must play by the rules and stop denying its drivers basic rights at work. This ruling should put gig economy employers on notice.”
Last month, Uber filed an appeal against a decision by TfL to deny it a licence to operate in London.
TfL said the taxi-hailing app had demonstrated “a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications”.
Uber employs 40,000 drivers in the capital and can continue to operate until that appeal process is complete.
While some drivers have criticised Uber’s structure, others say the app gives them the chance to work when they like.
“Every driver I know who uses the app does not want to be a worker for Uber,” driver Ben Tino told Sky News.
“We want to remain independent – it’s the reason why we all signed up in the first place.”
He added: “I really hope that Uber goes on to win this case otherwise it would be a disaster for the drivers who actually use the app.
“Uber has transformed the private hire industry for the better.”