Supreme Court Finds Uber Drivers are Workers

The Supreme Court has handed down its decision in Uber v Aslam, upholding earlier court decisions that Uber drivers are ‘workers’.

The case highlights the importance of ensuring that employment status is correctly identified to ensure any applicable statutory rights are complied with and is a reminder that tribunals will examine the reality of the relationship between the parties.

The Facts of the Case

The case was brought by two Uber drivers who believed that they should be considered workers and so qualified for the national minimum wage, paid annual leave and other workers rights irrespective of what had been agreed in their contract. Uber contended that the drivers didn’t have these rights because they worked for themselves as independent contractors performing services under contracts made with passengers through Uber as their booking agent. An employment tribunal initially held that the Uber drivers were workers but the case was appealed and it went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court held that the drivers were workers and that their working time is not limited to the time spent driving passengers to their destinations – they are considered workers during the time they spend logged in to the Uber app.

The Supreme Court considered that a tribunal should examine the reality of the relationship between the parties and the tribunal was entitled to find that the drivers were workers, not independent contractors, for reasons including:

  • Uber sets the fares for each ride the drivers carry out and the drivers are not permitted to set their own prices as they would if they were self-employed;
  • The contractual terms on which drivers perform their services are dictated by Uber. Not only are drivers required to accept Uber’s standard form of written agreement but the terms on which they transport passengers are also imposed by Uber and drivers have no say in them;
  • Although drivers have the freedom to choose when and where to work, once a driver has logged onto the Uber app, a driver’s choice about whether to accept requests for rides is constrained by Uber;
  • Uber exercises a significant degree of control over the way in which drivers deliver their services;
  • Uber restricts communication between passenger and driver to the minimum necessary to perform the particular trip and takes active steps to prevent drivers from establishing any relationship with a passenger capable of extending beyond an individual ride.

Where the Uber driver’s rights as workers have not been complied with, they could pursue claims.

Kingfisher’s Advice

It’s important for organisations to correctly identify the employment status of an individual to enable them to comply with any statutory rights they may have towards them. Employers can sometimes fall into common traps, such as:

  • Terminating the contract of someone considered to be self-employed but who in reality is an employee who has the right not to be unfairly dismissed
  • Mis-identifying a worker as being self-employed and not giving rights such as paid holiday

In some cases, identifying employment status can be tricky, particularly as employment tribunals will look at the circumstances of each individual case meaning that outcomes can sometimes be unpredictable. If you are unsure of the employment status of an individual in your organisation it’s important to seek advice on your situation.

If you have any employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.