Worker status for Uber Drivers

The Employment Tribunal has today ruled that two Uber drives are ‘workers’ within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Two drivers have argued that Uber was unlawfully failing to provide drivers with basic employment rights. The drivers claim that they are not self employed and argue they are in fact workers which entitles them to certain employment rights.

Uber argued that its drivers are self employed and that they can chose where and when they drive and are therefore independent contractors or self employed.

The decision of the employment tribunal entitles the drivers to a limited number of employment rights, but to be clear the status of ‘worker’ does not afford theme the same rights as employee.

The driver will be entitled 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 of the whistleblowing legislation.

As they are not employees, they will not be entitled to claim unfair dismissal, a statutory redundancy payment and TUPE protection.

Of course, it is very likely that this tribunal decision will be appealed up and up, potentially to the Supreme Court.

The emergency of the ‘Gig’ economy has raised serious issues over employee status and whether those who take on work in this manner are workers, employees or self employed independent contractors.

The traditional tests for employee status which employment lawyers are familiar of mutuality of obligation control and subordination may no longer be appropriate to judge the status or workers in the ‘Gig’ economy.

Dependant on the outcome of the likely appeal in this matter and although this decision is fact-specific, and based on Uber’s business model, if the Tribunal decision is upheld in the higher courts this could have a major impact on the ‘Gig’ economy as these business thrive because of their low costs model and changes as a result of worker or employee status could affect their future sustainability.

It will be a case of watch this space to see how this develops and we may well see future Government intervention to regulate the Gig Industry in the future.

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