Supreme Court decides Uber cabbie’s employment status

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The Supreme Court has today handed down its decision in the long-running case of Uber B.V. and others -v- Aslam and others finding that the drivers who use the Uber app were ‘workers’ who had statutory employment rights. 

The gig economy business model has generated a number of legal challenges

The so-called ‘gig economy’ business model which depends on ‘self-employed’ contractors has generated a number of legal challenges relating to employment status and worker rights. The Uber case though has generally been regarded as the leading one likely to highlight the most relevant factors and establish an approach that others will follow in relation to similar employment status challenges going forward. 

Are Uber drivers considered self employed?

The background to the case involved the Uber App which connects passengers to drivers. The drivers in this case all used the app for the purposes of finding work. They claimed that the conditions they had to meet in order to use the App meant they were "workers" and that they had rights in respect of holiday pay and national minimum wage. Uber disputed this on the grounds that they were self-employed. The lower courts had all found that the reality of the work arrangements were that the drivers were workers. 

The Supreme Court decided Uber drivers are 'workers'

Uber’s appeal identified two issues that had to be decided, whether the drivers were "workers" and if so what periods constituted their "working time". The Supreme Court taking into account that Uber had in reality exercised control over the way in which the drivers provided their services decided they were workers. Uber had amongst other things dictated how much they could charge, what communications they had with passengers and had rated each driver’s performance. It also decided that all the time that the driver spent logged into the App was working time as they were ready and willing to work even if they were not driving throughout that time they were still accruing their statutory entitlements.

Key takeaway point

The decision highlights again that it is the reality of the work relationship that will be the deciding factor in establishing employment status rather than any written agreement. Employers need to be aware that Employment Tribunals will be alert to any attempts to contract out of employment legislation that was intended to provide protection to those being engaged to work. Control was the main factor in this case as those who are genuinely self-employed will not be in a position of such sub-ordination where they have to comply with numerous conditions and rules relating to the performance of their work.

Do you require any more information regarding the Supreme Court's decision?

If you have any queries regarding this case, please get in touch with our expert listed below who will be happy to advise you. 

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