February 25, 2021

Uber drivers are ‘workers’

This post was written by: Ilinca Mardarescu

The Supreme Court handed down its decision in Uber v Aslam last week which confirmed that Uber drivers should be classed as workers and not self-employed.  This decision means that thousands of Uber drivers will be entitled to basic rights which include access to minimum wage, rest breaks, and paid holidays.

The case initially commenced in 2016 and has traveled up through the courts being appealed (unsurprisingly) by Uber at every turn.  The Supreme Court however is the highest court in Britain meaning this decision is the final say on the matter. 

The flood gates are now open for all Uber drivers to seek compensation which could lead to Uber facing a large compensation bill.

One of the main arguments put forward by Uber is that its drivers are not workers because the drivers can choose the hours they work.

The ruling concluded that Uber must consider its drivers as workers from the moment they log on to the app and are available to work in the area until they log off the app. 

The Supreme Court decided that because of the factors listed below, the drivers were in a position of control and subordination to Uber.

  • Uber sets fares which means they determine and control how much drivers earn
  • Uber sets the terms of the driver’s conditions and so the drivers have no input
  • Uber can penalize or terminate driver’s contracts if the drivers reject too many requests for rides and so the drivers are constrained by Uber
  • Uber monitors drivers’ service through a star rating and they can end their employer-employee relationship after warnings and the service does not improve.

The decision could well have huge ramifications not just for Uber but other industries which rely on a form of imposed “self-employed” contracts.  The case will no doubt prompt a shift in the way these companies work in the future and the face of the gig economy may well be affected.   For now, those Uber drivers not a party to this litigation will have to either litigate themselves and/or at least threaten to litigate in order to recover what is owed to them.   Unions may well assist also but it is unlikely that Uber will automatically rectify matters and give drivers the money they are owed.

For assistance with this or any employment-related query, please contact our Head of Employment, Ilinca Mardarescu.