Supreme Court says Uber drivers are workers, not self-employed

The Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as workers rather than as self-employed.

The distinction is crucial as it means drivers gain significant employments rights such as entitlement to the minimum wage and holiday pay.

The court’s decision marks the end of a four-year legal battle between Uber and two of its former drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam.

They began their fight to be classed as workers in the Employment Tribunal in 2017. It ruled in their favour, after hearing that Uber paid drivers weekly, based on the fares charged for trips undertaken, less a service fee for the use of its booking app.

Uber argued that it was merely acting as an agent and that drivers entered into binding agreements with passengers to provide them with transportation services.

The tribunal concluded that any driver who had the app switched on and was within the territory in which he was authorised to work, and was willing to accept assignments, was working for Uber under a "worker" contract.

It held that any supposed contract between driver and passenger was a pure fiction, bearing no relation to the real dealings and relationships between the parties.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, the High Court and the Court of Appeal all upheld that decision.

That meant the Supreme Court was the only option left for Uber, but it too has upheld the tribunal’s decision.

In giving the judgement, Lord Leggatt said that the court unanimously dismissed Uber's appeal that it was merely an intermediary party and stated that drivers should be considered to be working not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.

The ruling clearly has major implications for Uber as it means its thousands of drivers now gain important employment rights. The decision will also have an impact on other sectors of the gig economy.

Jamie Heywood, Uber's Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said: "We respect the Court's decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016.

"Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.

"We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see."

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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