The Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers are ‘workers’, with its decision in Uber v Aslam reaching the same conclusion as earlier courts.
It found that the drivers are ‘workers’ from when they switch on their apps to the point they turn them off.
The court stated that a tribunal should examine and assess what the reality of the relationship between the parties is, and not just be bound by what the documentation states. On this basis, the tribunal was within its rights to find that Uber drivers are ‘workers’, not self-employed subcontractors.
This means that as Uber drivers are workers and not self-employed subcontractors, they are entitled to claim minimum wage (including backpay for minimum wage), with their minimum wage claims being based on not just when they had a person in their cabs, but instead upon their entire working day. This means that the greater of; up to two years’ backpay (potentially longer), or £25,000 can be claimed in an employment tribunal, and up to six years’ backpay can be claimed in the county court.
They can also claim 5.6 weeks paid annual leave each year, and they will have whistleblowing, discrimination, and other similar rights. They are not employees however and do not have ‘employee’ rights, such as the ability to claim unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment.
There were five reasons why the Supreme Court came to its decision:
- 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
- Uber sets the terms and conditions of using its service
- Drivers face penalties for cancelling or not accepting rides – sometimes preventing them from working
- Uber has significant control over the way that drivers work, as they face a rating system. If a drivers’ Uber rating falls below a certain level they face penalties or termination of their contract
- Uber takes active steps to prevent drivers and passengers from having an agreement outside of the Uber app
Lord Leggatt said the relationship between Uber and drivers is one of “subordination and dependency” and noted that drivers have little ability to increase their professional skills, and can only boost their earnings by carrying out more work for Uber.
This judgment could have a significant implication for the gig-economy and any businesses who believe that they use self-employed contractors.
Not only should contractual relationships with contractors be reviewed, but there should also be an honest assessment of the reality of that relationship.
Tribunal claims are already at a high, and this could lead to further claims, even from a speculative perspective.