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SADIQ KHAN: TfL doesn’t have ability to stipulate employment terms despite Uber Supreme Court ruling

Transport for London (TfL) does not have the ability to stipulate the employment terms and conditions used by private hire operators, despite a recent Uber Supreme Court ruling says Mayor of London.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, suggested there was little more he and TfL can do to ensure workers on the Uber platform received the pay that some argue is entitled to private hire drivers following the landmark workers’ rights decision.

In February the Supreme Court handed victory to Uber drivers after a six-year battle for worker rights including the right to earn the minimum wage and holiday pay.

Tens of thousands of Uber drivers are now claiming the right to be classed as workers after the court handed down its judgment.

Whilst Uber have brought in most of the basic working requirements, one argument still continues despite the ruling. The argument suggests drivers should be paid for the full-time they are available to take bookings on the Uber app, rather than just being paid for the time they have passengers onboard.

London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon asked the Mayor of London: “The Supreme Court ruling on the 19 February 2021 stated that the employment tribunal was entitled to find the time spent by claimants for Uber was not limited (as Uber argued) to periods when they were actually driving passengers to their destinations, but included any period when the driver was logged into the Uber app within the territory in which the driver was licensed to operate and was ready and willing to accept trips.

“Please set out in detail how TfL is seeking to ensure this legal ruling is fully enforced and what steps it is taking to monitor its enforcement.”

Sadiq Khan replied: “As I said at the time of the ruling, I welcome the Supreme Court decision. Gig economy workers deserve the same rights as other workers.

“However, I am aware that, as the licensing authority and regulator of taxi and private hire services, Transport for London (TfL) does not have the ability to stipulate the employment terms and conditions used by private hire operators.

“As has been demonstrated by the Supreme Court decision, drivers have a clear legal recourse through the employment tribunals system if they consider an employer is not playing by the rules.”

In a recent interview with TaxiPoint, James Farrar, General Secretary of App Drivers and Courier Union (ADCU), said: “Uber has agreed to observe rights only during the working time as measured from dispatch to drop off whereas the Employment Tribunal ruled, and the Supreme Court agreed, that working time must be from log on to log off. It is cynical and illegal cherry picking from a binding ruling from the highest court in our land.

“This is hugely significant because around 40-50% of working time is stand by time waiting for Uber to allocate work. The financial implications are huge with Uber only wanting to honour minimum wage during the time drivers are revenue earning but pay you nothing at all when they are not. This is time for which drivers are entitled and need to be paid minimum wage. Right now, Uber is only agreeing to top up to minimum wage if the fare income after costs doesn’t get you across that threshold. So, the litigation carries on and we are scheduled for a 20 day hearing in 2022.

“A consequence of this refusal to respect the Supreme Court is that Uber has no proper incentive to rationalise the vast amounts of people and vehicles it brings on to the platform. Uber calls this aspect of their business formula the ‘lure of large’ numbers but it is a one-sided bargain. Uber has the competitive advantage of a fast response time due to over-supply. In return drivers suffer depressed yields and underutilisation which leads to urban congestion for everyone else.”

In April James Heywood, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told TaxiPoint: “If drivers were entitled to the minimum wage for all the time they simply had the app open, this would mean set shifts and a drastic cut to the number of drivers who can earn with Uber, at a time when the UK needs more earnings opportunities not less.

“Drivers have told us this is not what they want and the changes announced recently are the only way to ensure these new rights come with flexibility. This is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling which assessed Uber’s business in 2016 and based its decision on key features which have subsequently been removed.”


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