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Home > Company News > Supreme Court Ruling: Uber drivers must be treated as workers

Supreme Court Ruling: Uber drivers must be treated as workers

Posted on: 23/02/2021

On Friday 19 February 2021, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers must be treated as ‘workers’ (an employment status falling short of being a full employee) rather than as self-employed contractors.

Why is the UK Supreme Court Ruling on Uber drivers significant?

The significance of the ruling is that as workers, the Uber drivers are entitled to basic employment rights including national minimum wage and paid holidays. This could lead to similar challenges being made against other businesses who are heavily reliant on a self-employed workforce.

What does the ruling mean for Uber and its drivers?

The key points from the Supreme Court decision were:

  1. In determining the status of an individual in this context it is the reality of the relationship between the parties that must be examined irrespective of the label set out in the contractual documentation. The contracts in this case outlined the status of the Uber drivers as that of self-employed subcontractors. However, the Supreme Court considered that Uber exercised a significant amount of control over how the drivers worked (including setting the terms and conditions for service, setting fare prices and monitoring a driver’s service through the star rating) which was not in keeping with the drivers being self-employed. On this basis, the tribunal was entitled to find that Uber drivers are ‘workers’, not self-employed subcontractors.

 

  1. The drivers are ‘workers’ from the moment they log on to Uber’s app and are available for work, to the time when they log off the app at the end of the day, and are therefore entitled to be paid the minimum wage throughout the day, not just for the time that they are carrying a fare paying passenger.

What does the Uber ruling mean for the gig economy?

While we will wait to see the true impact of the Uber decision, there is no doubt that it represents a setback for the gig economy model that has emerged in recent years.

Some will argue that this will adversely affect the many workers as well as businesses who want to work flexibly without commitment, while others will say it is gives long awaited protection to individuals who have been engaged in a sham form of self-employment in order for employers to avoid payment of minimum wage levels and holidays. Either way the additional costs that will now need to be picked up by affected employers will almost certainly be passed onto the customer.

Uber and the courts

This is not the first time Uber have found themselves in the headlines – and the courts. In 2017, Transport for London (Tfl) refused the company a new private hire license, deeming them not fit and proper to obtain one.

Although this particular ruling was overturned after an appeal, it shows that the narrative around contemporary business models – such as Uber and Deliveroo – and existing legal frameworks is ongoing.

Speak with Steele Raymond’s specialist employment lawyers

If you would like to discuss your legal options with Steele Raymond’s employment law solicitors in Bournemouth, please contact Deborah West on 01202 294 566 or email [email protected].

 

 

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