October 31, 2016

Victory for Uber Drivers

This post was written by: Ilinca Mardarescu

It’s likely that most of us would have heard about Uber having lost the case brought by a number of their drivers. The Employment Tribunal has handed down its decision in the case of Aslam and ors v Uber BV that the drivers are not self-employed contractors as Uber claimed but are instead workers (as per the Employment Rights Act 1996). Importantly, they are not employees. And there is a big difference between the two, especially when it comes to Uber employment rights.

Workers are entitled to certain protections such as paid annual leave, protection regarding working time and rest breaks, whistle-blowing protection and the right to be paid the national minimum (and living) wage. For Uber drivers this will be a great victory. However, as they are not employees they will not be able to claim unfair dismissal, redundancy payments, sick pay or holiday pay, pension contributions, rights under TUPE should UBER sell its business or even the basic principles of the implied terms of trust and confidence. This of course raises the possibility that at a later date, Uber could make all its drivers redundant and change the business model again to one in which their status may again be called into question.

The Tribunal criticised the lengths Uber went to in order to be able to argue its drivers were self-employed (such as constructing the requirement for drivers to provide invoices – but which in fact Uber created itself, and the notion in their own T&C’s that the drivers enter into individual contracts with each passenger – which the Tribunal pointed out was ludicrous bearing in mid the parties do not know each other and the fact payment is set by and goes to Uber).

Of course, the decision will be challenged by Uber – they have already confirmed they are preparing the appeal. It would not be a surprise if the matter ultimately went as far as the Supreme Court. However, for now, any Uber drivers with a claim should issue proceedings as soon as possible so as to preserve their position with regards to limitation and then should apply to have the matter “stayed” until the appeals are all heard.

As the “gig economy” grows, it is highly likely that this case will open the floodgate for others currently classed as self-employed such as Hermes, other courier drivers and the likes of Deliveroo.

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