Uber Drives Forward on Its Legal Challenge

10 May 2017

An employment tribunal decided last October that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to certain employment rights including the national minimum wage, and protection from discrimination and for whistleblowing. They are not, as the company maintained, self-employed.

Aslam and others v Uber BV and others

An employment tribunal decided last October that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to certain employment rights including the national minimum wage, and protection from discrimination and for whistleblowing. They are not, as the company maintained, self-employed.

The employment tribunal looked beyond the contractual position between the parties to the reality of the entire relationship when determining whether the drivers engaged are really workers or self-employed contractors.

Some of the key findings that influenced the ruling that the drivers are workers are:

  • Drivers are instructed, managed, monitored and controlled by Uber
  • Uber interviews and recruits drivers, and handles complaints made by passengers
  • Uber exercises control over the drivers by making their cars meet certain standards, set the fees paid by passengers and route for the journey, and does not tell the driver the passenger’s identity or intended destination until they pick the passenger up
  • If drivers cancel or don’t accept a certain number of fares, the driver is deactivated from the app – this was essentially seen as a disciplinary sanction
  • Drivers have to provide a personal service and cannot send a replacement if they do not accept a fare

Uber has now been granted permission to appeal that decision and is expected to be heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in September later this year.

We shall have to wait and see whether the EAT reaches a different conclusion on the drivers’ employment status. Either way we expect the outcome to be big news, particularly for those organisations that operate within the ‘gig-economy’ in similar ways to Uber.


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