Uber, the ride-sharing app, has been granted a 15-month licence to operate in London.

Last September, Transport for London (TfL) revoked the app’s licence on safety and security grounds.

The US firm has now been given a licence but has been put on probation for 15 months. Further, they will have to operate under a clear set of conditions that TfL will closely monitor and enforce.

Clear victory

GMB, the union for “gig workers,” is considering the decision a victory.

Last October, an employment tribunal ruled in GMB’s favour. It determined that Uber drivers are workers entitled to basic workers’ rights, rather than being self-employed. It believes that this latest ruling shows that Uber has been forced to change its ways.

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“However shiny their technology, no operator can be above the rules or flout decent employment practices,” Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said. “This decision is a vindication of GMB’s campaign to ensure drivers are given the rights they are entitled to – and that the public, drivers and passengers are kept safe.”

Good news for Uber drivers

London is Uber’s biggest market. Around 45,000 drivers and 3.6 million passengers regularly using the app. The UK’s Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed said this will be welcome news for  Uber partner-drivers, who value the flexibility that this way of working provides.

“While [this] decision provides drivers with some clarity, the government’s failure to legally define self-employment is undermining confidence in the UK’s wider flexible labour market, Chris Bryce, IPSE’s CEO, added. “Rather than waiting for costly, time-consuming court cases – like [the] Hermes decision – to determine employment status, the government should write a positive definition of self-employment into statute.”

More court cases to come?

Court cases against “gig economy” companies – where workers are paid for each individual “gig” they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey – seem to be coming in thick and fast at the moment.

Earlier this week, delivery company Hermes lost a court case. Hermes was told that its couriers should be treated as workers instead of independent contractors. A judge has also given the IWGB the go-ahead to contest the self-employed status of Deliveroo drivers.

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