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Supreme Court finds that Uber drivers are “Workers”

What is the Uber BV and others v Aslam and others case about?

The Supreme Court has recently handed down its judgment in the case of Uber BV and others v Aslam and others, finding unanimously that Uber drivers are “workers” for the purposes of the relevant employment legislation, not self-employed contractors. As a result, they are entitled to employment rights. These include protection from unlawful deductions from wages (Employment Rights Act 1996) and annual paid leave as well as payment of the national minimum wage (Working Time Regulations 1998).

Uber has long-argued that its drivers are not “workers” for these purposes as it merely uses its technology to act as an “agent”, with the individual driver contracting with the passenger for each journey on a self-employed basis.

Previous decisions

The claim was originally brought in the Employment Tribunal by a number of Uber drivers, with Mr Aslam being one of the test claimants. The drivers argued they were “workers” for the purposes of the relevant legislation and were entitled to protection from unlawful deductions from wages, annual paid leave and payment of the national minimum wage. The Tribunal held that the drivers were “workers” under the relevant legislation during the periods when they were ready and willing to accept bookings (i.e. when they had the app switched on and were in the correct geographical area).

On appeal by Uber, this decision was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. Uber then made a final appeal to the Supreme Court.

Judgment

The Supreme Court upheld the finding of the Employment Tribunal that a driver should have been classified as a “worker” within the statutory definition when he “(a) had the Uber app switched on, (b) was within the territory in which he was authorised to use the app and (c) was ready and willing to accept trips”.

It was also held that any written contract should not be used as the starting point to determine whether an individual is a “worker” for the purposes of the legislation; the true nature of the relationship should be considered. 

Implications

This case has wide-ranging implications, not just for Uber, but for employers in the “gig-economy” as a whole. Employers in this area will be required to give greater consideration to the rights and protections offered to their workers, or run the risk of costly Employment Tribunal claims.

Further information

For more guidance about the issues raised by this case or other Employment law questions please speak to your usual Druces contact or:

 

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