Uber, the app-based taxi booking service, is facing legal action from unions over allegations its drivers are not receiving basic workers’ rights.

GMB, the union for professional drivers, is challenge claims made by the firm that its drivers are seen as partners rather than employees, and therefore are not entitled to the same rights normally afforded to workers.

The union argues that Uber is breaching the legal duty of to provide basic rights such as pay, holiday, discipline and grievances, and health and safety.

A spokesperson for Uber says:

“One of the main reasons drivers use Uber is because they love being their own boss. As employees, drivers would drive set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive elsewhere as well as the personal flexibility they most value.”

Lawyers from Leigh Day, the law firm handling the case on behalf of Uber drivers, claim the taxi firm is breaching employment law by not ensuring its drivers are paid minimum wage or receiving their entitlement to holiday pay.

The law firm also claims that health and safety regulations are being overlooked as Uber’s drivers may not be taking regular rest breaks and hours worked per week are not monitored.

There have also been reports of Uber drivers being suspended or deactivated from the app after making complaints about unlawful treatment.

Nigel Mackay, a lawyer at Leigh Day, believes there could be ‘substantial pay outs’ for drivers if the legal action is successful. He says:

“We believe that it’s clear from the way Uber operates that it owes the same responsibilities towards its drivers as any other employer does to its workers. In particular, its drivers should not be denied the right to minimum wage and paid leave.

The GMB’s branch secretary Steve Garelick says:

“The need for a union to defend working drivers’ rights has become an imperative. Operators like Uber must understand that they have an ethical and social policy that matches societies’ expectations of fair and honest treatment.”

Tim Spillane, head of employment at Stewarts Law says:

“Whether an individual is an employee, a worker, or an independent contractor is very significant. Workers have less extensive protection rights than employees, though they will still be covered by many statutory protections. There are even fewer protections for contractors. Therefore, it is no surprise that the GMB union are seeking to establish that Uber drivers are workers, not contractors or ‘partners’. A decision in favour of the GMB could cost Uber a substantial amount, as well as obliging them to bear a greater degree of responsibility for their workers.”