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Workers or Self Employed – Uber Drivers Seek Clarification

In November the Employment Tribunal gave its decision in the case brought by lead claimants and Uber drivers, Mr Y Aslam and Mr J Farrar.
The claimants brought claims under the Employment rights Act, National Minimum Wage Act and the Working Time Regulations and essentially held that they were ‘workers’ within the meaning of the Acts and therefore entitled to benefits such as the National Minimum Wage and paid holiday. UBER’s central argument was that the drivers were in fact self employed and their (UBER’s) role was that of a technology company connecting drivers with potential passengers: not employing drivers in its own business. However, the judgement was overwhelmingly in favour of the claimant and the judgement itself was a damming indictment of UBER’s claims.
The judgement held that to argue that Uber was not a ‘supplier of transportation services’, i.e. a taxi supplier was unreal and the corresponding notion that London was a ‘mosaic of 30,000 small business’ ‘faintly ridiculous’. It appears that Uber went to great lengths through its complex and convoluted terms and conditions to ensure that the paperwork did not in fact reflect the reality of the situation.
Despite the ferocity with which the judgement was given it is unlikely that this will be the last word on the issue. Uber themselves wrote to the drivers and passengers straight after the judgement to stating “There will be no change to your partnership with Uber in light of this decision and we will continue to support the overwhelming majority of drivers who tell us that they use the Uber app to be their own boss and choose when and where to drive.” Uber intends to appeal the judgement
The judgement will impact greatly on the so called ‘Gig Economy’ and companies operating on similar business models are likely to face pressure from employees to receive the same acknowledgement. However, the judgement did acknowledge that there are business models that Uber could have employed that would have maintained the drivers’ self-employed status.
Our experienced team of employment solicitors specialise in guiding employers through the ever changing world of employment law. For a free, no obligation consultation, please call 088 088 6004.