Supreme Court rules that Uber drivers are workers

In Uber’s last appeal in its long legal battle, the Supreme Court has ruled that its drivers must be classed as workers rather than self-employed.

This means that its drivers will now be entitled to employment rights such as national minimum wage, holiday pay and breaks.

The Supreme Court upheld previous Tribunal decisions in this case (you can read our previous alert on this case here). This decision was based largely on the degree of control exercised by Uber over the workers, namely that it interviews and recruits drivers, punishes drivers who frequently refuse/cancel trips by logging them off the app, handles complaints, including complaints about drivers, and reserves the right to unilaterally change the drivers’ terms. Uber also sets the fare for the drivers which dictates how much they can earn, meaning the only way they can earn more money is to work longer hours.

Uber previously argued that it acted solely as an agent, linking its drivers and their passengers, through the app by providing booking and payment services, with the drivers transporting passengers as independent contractors. Crucially, the Supreme Court has ruled that the drivers must be classed as workers from the time they log on to the app in the territory in which they work to the time they log off.

This is one of a line of decisions in favour of those engaged in the gig economy being workers. Whether someone is a worker, employee or genuinely self-employed is highly fact-sensitive; however, in light of the decision any business who engages staff on a self-employed/consultancy basis should re-assess the nature of the relationship. Claims arising from a misclassification can be significant, usually due to holiday accrual. Employers might provision for such claims or change the contractual relationship if it is obvious that someone is a worker/employee.

If you have any queries, please contact our Employment Team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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