Uber says employment rights ruling could deprive drivers of personal flexibility
Online taxi firm Uber has hit out at a landmark tribunal ruling on the employment rights of drivers, saying it could "deprive them of the personal flexibility they value".
The private hire firm lost the legal battle on Friday after two drivers successfully argued they were employees rather than self-employed operators.
Sweeping changes affecting thousands of workers could be triggered by the ruling, which could entitle them to holiday pay and a guaranteed minimum wage.
An email was sent to customers written by the UK's regional general manager Jo Bertram, outlining the reasons why the firm planned to appeal against the decision.
She said: "A recent poll of 1,000 drivers who use our app found that the overwhelming majority prefer being self-employed and joined Uber precisely because they want to be their own boss.
"Drivers want the freedom to decide where, when and for how long to drive: being classified as workers could deprive them of the personal flexibility they value.
"Last month, drivers who used our app in the UK made on average over £16 per hour in fares, after our service fee. Even after deducting costs, this is well above the national living wage.
"We're proud that Uber has created flexible opportunities for thousands of people to make money when and where they want. It's why we are appealing this decision."
Uber claimed it is a technology company rather than a taxi firm, and says employment arrangements allow its 30,000 drivers across England and Wales to be their own boss and work flexibly.
But the tribunal panel offered a scathing dismissal of Uber's arguments, suggesting the firm had tried to bamboozle its drivers and passengers with "fictions", "twisted language" and "brand new terminology".
The case is the first time Uber has faced legal action in the UK over whether its drivers are workers or self-employed.
Annie Powell, from the employment team at Leigh Day, the law firm which represented the Uber drivers, said: "It is simply incorrect to say that the tribunal ruling will deprive drivers of their flexibility.
"As the tribunal ruling shows, flexible working is not inconsistent with worker status and there is no legal reason whatsoever why workers' rights would lead to less flexibility.
"We are concerned that this false claim about flexibility will deter other Uber drivers from asserting their rights."
Maria Ludkin, legal director of GMB, the union which supported the drivers, said: "Even after the judge found Ms Bertram's evidence lacked credibility and described her as 'grimly loyal', she continues to try and advance a misleading and false set of facts."
She raised concerns that the poll of drivers' opinions might not be "peer reviewed" and the claim they averaged pay of £16 per hour was "completely unverified and does not represent the position for the hundreds of drivers we represent".
"This judgment in no way affects driver flexibility, it merely guarantees them basic employment rights," she added.