Driver contracts under the microscope

drivers contracts articleDriver contracts in certain industries have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks and months, and some employers using certain controversial hiring practices could be about to feel the heat from regulators.

Debate about controversial and ‘unfair’ hiring practices has been bubbling in semi-public view for some time now.

The power of public outrage became clear late last year when Pizza Express was forced to change its policy on staff tips. More recently, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct received a bruising from MPs for what was described as ‘workhouse’ conditions at his factories.

Today though, the debate has landed squarely at the feet of transport and delivery companies, and particularly Uber.

An employment tribunal being fought by more than a dozen Uber drivers, and supported by one of the biggest unions, has the potential to send shockwaves through the transport and logistics sector.

In what one expert called the ‘case of the year in UK employment law,’ Uber faces a legal challenge to its classification of drivers as being self-employed ‘partners.’

Because of the self-employed employment status, it means that these drivers don’t enjoy the same access to in-work benefits like pension contributions, holiday pay and sick pay.

Uber argues that it is just a technology company; an app that puts self-employed drivers in touch with people that want a lift.

The outcome of this tribunal could have repercussions for other employers with similar hiring practices. Uber is one of the most prolific companies in the new so called ‘on-demand’ economy, but it certainly isn’t the only one to use controversial hiring practices.

In recent weeks. The scrutiny spotlight has also been trained on delivery businesses Hermes and Deliveroo. These companies make their money by offering fast, reliable and above all, cheap transport of goods. But this kind of business model often comes with a human cost attached, and often it is the people carrying out the deliveries that report low wages, uncertainty from day to day and a lack of support from their employers.

Of course, some of these on-demand workers enjoy the flexibility that comes with this type of work. But the feeling isn’t shared by everyone.

Employers should be monitoring the Uber tribunal closely, and take stock of their hiring policies to make sure they are in line with the norm.