Last week an employment appeal tribunal ruled against Uber with regard to the status of their drivers. Uber were appealing the previous employment tribunal decision that their drivers were workers, rather than self-employed contractors. At the recent tribunal the company argued they acted as the driver’s agent by referring passengers to the driver through the app and receiving a payment for this, rather than being a ‘gig economy’ employer.
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) said it was surprised the EAT did not give due consideration to the fact that drivers choose when and how long they work for when it upheld the earlier decision. The tribunal found that two drivers who obtained work through the Uber app should be granted ‘worker’ employment status.
“It is astonishing that the employment tribunal granted the two drivers worker status,” says Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO. “A key element of being a worker is having to turn up for work even if you don’t want to. This is clearly not the case with people who drive through Uber – they choose when and how long they work for by logging on or off the app.
“The growing number of employment tribunals linked to the gig economy shows there is a fundamental lack of clarity over what it means to work on your own behalf,” he added. “The government needs to seriously consider introducing a statutory definition of self-employment. That would bring greater certainty and reduce the need for further tribunals. This would help both individuals unsure of their status and companies wishing to engage people on a self-employed basis.”
Alan Price, Employment Law Director at the UK’s leading employment law consultancy Peninsula also commented on the decision saying that for Uber’s estimated 40,000 drivers in the UK, this is another positive sign that their true employment status is that of a ‘worker’ and, as such, they should be entitled to worker rights. “They will have the right to seek minimum wage, paid holiday, working time rights and minimum rest breaks from Uber, with the financial implications of future rights and back pay claims falling on the business,” he said.
“The decision is also a further indication to ‘gig economy’ employers and companies with similar business models that they may need to reassess their treatment of their staff to ensure they are giving the correct rights,” he added. “Since employment tribunal fees have been abolished, there is no deterrent for individuals to challenge their given status. Numerous tribunal claims are currently being brought against companies, including Deliveroo and The Doctors Laboratory, from individuals seeking confirmation of their employment status.”
Price is adamant however that this is not the end of the Uber case. “It is highly likely Uber will continue to appeal the decision and, during the EAT hearing, there was even a suggestion that they could leapfrog the Court of Appeal and take their case directly to the Supreme Court,” says Price. "A number of other companies are also facing appeals in the coming months, with CitySprint in the EAT at the end of November and Pimlico Plumbers appealing the decision that a plumber was a worker at the Supreme Court in early 2018.”