Employment Law: Workers vs Self Employed | March 2021

Employment Law: Workers vs Self Employed | March 2021

The Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers are workers not self-employed.

So, what does this mean for you?

We looked at this area last year in our Employment Law briefing on the ‘Gig Economy’ when considering who are: -

  • Employees
  • Workers and
  • Self Employed

The distinction between these can be somewhat grey and the Government in attempting to address this issue published its long-awaited response to the recommendations made in Taylor Report 2017 in the Good Work Plan 2018 - allied to this the latest ruling now provides a clearer picture for organisations and ‘self employed’.

Uber BV is a Dutch company which owns the technology behind the Uber app. Uber London Ltd is a UK subsidiary licensed to operate private hire vehicles in London. The claimants, Mr Aslam and Mr Farrar, at the relevant times were licensed to drive private hire vehicles in London and did so using the Uber app.

Their claim was brought in the employment tribunal as a test case to establish their employment status. Uber had argued that its Dutch-based arm, Uber BV, which owns the technology behind the app, simply used its Uber London subsidiary as a booking agent for drivers – which it contended were self-employed.

In the ruling on 19th February 2021 in ‘Uber BV and others v Aslam and others’, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that argument and ruled instead that Uber London contracts with passengers, and then engages drivers to carry out bookings and that Uber drivers are in fact workers.

What are the implications of this judgment?

The decision itself could mean thousands of Uber drivers in the UK are entitled to:

  • Entitlement to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year;
  • A maximum 48 hour average working week, and rest breaks;
  • The National Minimum Wage (and the national living wage);
  • Protection under whistleblowing legislation.

However, it is important to note that it does not mean that this judgment gives them ‘employee’ rights, such as the right to a redundancy payment or to claim unfair dismissal.

There are several high-profile organisations who have been watching and waiting for this ruling and the question they will be asking themselves is could this precedent now apply to their own working arrangements.

Where a company/organisation feels that this judgment may impact on their current arrangements it is necessary to examine all the elements of the relationship a company/organisation has with individuals who provide services to it on a casual basis. In brief, the company should review how the people were recruited, how work is allocated to them and managed, what control is exercised over the individuals and how payment is made to them. 

This is a complex area and usually not with a ready-made simple answer, without a full examination of all matters surrounding the working relationship with individuals.

The full judgement and press summary can be found at: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2019-0029.html

If you have any HR issues and would like to talk them through with our team, please don't hesitate to contact us.


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