An excellent article written by Emily Burt of People management (25th September 2017) highlights the importance to businesses of robust background of your team checking procedures, after Uber had its licence to operate in London pulled by Transport for London (TfL) on Friday 22nd September 2017.
In a statement released on Friday, TfL said the ride-hailing app was not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence. Among the reasons given were the company’s deemed failure to report alleged criminal offences carried out by its drivers and a lax attitude towards background checks and obtaining medical certificates.
Matthew Pinto-Chilcott, Managing Director of Consensus HR comments “Too many times businesses do not see the importance of carrying out back ground checks on new employees due to it being time consuming and not having the required information needed to make such checks. Employers need to ensure as part of the recruitment process that adequate information is received such as the names & addresses of former employers who can be contacted. This will help to safeguard the business and its employees and allow business owners to make the correct recruitment decisions. Business owners need to look at fully what background checks need to be made relevant to their business.”
“Dara Khosrowshahi [chief executive of Uber] has said the rejection is the cost of a ‘bad reputation’,” Keely Rushmore, senior associate at SA Law, told People Management. “However, from TfL’s perspective, its decision is about reality and genuine concerns, not reputation. Uber would perhaps be better placed in its appeal against the decision by focusing on addressing those concerns, rather than on seeking the support and peer pressure of its users.”
At the beginning of September, TfL said it had found that up to 13,000 Uber drivers had insufficient background checks and a separate investigation by The Sun, published last year, claimed Uber drivers had been obtaining falsified medical certificates.
Over the weekend, The Sunday Times published a letter from the head of the Metropolitan Police’s taxi and private hire unit, which accused Uber of selectively reporting criminal offences committed by drivers, choosing to report only those that would be “less damaging to [its] reputation”.
Uber’s existing licence expires on 30 September, but the company has 21 days to appeal TfL’s decision, and can continue to operate until it has exhausted the appeals process.
In an open letter tweeted by the company’s media team, recently appointed Khosrowshahi apologised “for the mistakes we’ve made” and added: “We will appeal this decision on behalf of millions of Londoners but we do so with the knowledge that we must also change.”
Meanwhile, Nick Elwell-Sutton, employment partner at Clyde & Co, said the decision flagged further concerns about the limited rights of gig economy workers. “Because they are classed as ‘workers’ rather than employees, there will be no right to a redundancy payment and no obligation to consult,” he said “Instead, Uber just needs to serve contractual notice to terminate.
“40,000 [drivers] are potentially losing their jobs, and while in future they could work as traditional minicab drivers, without the technology overlay of the Uber app they would be self-employed and end up with no rights at all rather than the limited ‘worker’ rights they currently have with Uber.”
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said the decision should act as a “cautionary tale” for employers of gig economy workers. “It is perfectly possible to run a taxi company without treating drivers poorly and cutting corners on customer safety… Unions will expose nasty schemes that cheat workers out of basic rights like the minimum wage and holiday pay,” she said.
On Wednesday, the company is due to head to the Employment Appeal Tribunal to challenge a 2016 ruling, which decided that two of its drivers were workers, rather than self-employed, and therefore entitled to certain rights such as the minimum wage and sick pay.
If you are unsure of what reference checks you should be making or how to conduct them legally / productively, call Consensus HR on 01462 621243 or alternatively fill in our ‘Contact’ form and we will contact you ASAP.