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UK lawsuit may force Uber to treat drivers as employees

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Should Uber drivers be classified as employees or independent contractors? The ride-hailing company has always leaned towards the latter, because it means it can avoid paying potentially expensive staff benefits, insurance and expenses. However, a California Labor commission ruled last month that an Uber driver was, in fact, a company employee -- and now a union is pushing for a similar decision in the UK. GMB, which represents professional drivers, argues that Uber is breaching its legal duty to provide drivers with basic rights concerning their pay, holiday, health and ability to file complaints. It's now instructed the law firm Leigh Day to take legal action on behalf of Uber drivers.

In particular, the union wants Uber to conform with UK employment law that ensures drivers are paid the minimum wage, receive paid holiday and can take rest breaks during their working week. "It owes the same responsibilities towards its drivers as any other employer does to its workers," Nigel Mackay, a Leigh Day lawyer said. The pressure appears to be mounting -- Uber is appealing the California ruling, but at some point it might have to accept that it's fleet of drivers are staff, not partners. Doing so would raise its running costs considerably, and perhaps put a dent in its relentless global expansion plans.

"One of the main reasons drivers use Uber is because they love being their own boss," a spokesperson for Uber said. "As employees, drivers would drive set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive elsewhere. The reality is that drivers use Uber on their own terms: they control their use of the app".

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