Uber and out

Landmark case shows need for clarity

Uber’s landmark defeat in the Supreme Court means Uber drivers – who were deemed as self-employed – have now been classed as ‘workers’ in the UK, meaning they now qualify for certain employment rights. The ruling has brought response from diverse parts of the employment world.

“This judgement should serve as a clear warning to any company that believes they can just circumvent the new off-payroll rules by moving workers to self-employed,” said Crawford Temple, CEO of Professional Passport. “Existing legislation in the sector, together with reporting requirements would make this a very high risk strategy, particularly in light of this outcome.”

“This is a landmark victory for Uber drivers,” agreed Seb Maley, Qdos CEO. “It has the potential to set a precedent for all gig economy workers, many of whom need and deserve employment rights.

“The ruling should serve as a stark reminder to businesses that employment status isn’t always clear cut, and that decisions must be made carefully. If a firm engages an individual under the wrong status, the cost – both financially and reputationally – can be massive.”

“But while many gig economy workers want greater protection and employment benefits, we shouldn’t assume that all self-employed people need them,” he added. “There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people working for themselves who want to remain entirely independent.”

Dave Chaplin, CEO of contracting authority ContractorCalculator and IR35 Shield added: “The take away for the contracting community and IR35/Off-payroll matters is the reinforcement of what we know already – make sure the contractual paperwork is correct and a true reflection of the engagement. Then there should be no issues.

“It’s important to remember that Uber is an employment case, between two parties who disagreed what the true agreement was,” he continued. “For IR35 cases, where both the client and the contractor agree the relationship is ‘outside IR35’ Autoclenz [a previous case] may not come into play, because there is no mischief, artifice or sham whereby one side has tried to exercise their bargaining power to impose a contractual arrangement which is not a true reflection of the reality.”

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, commented: “This landmark case has highlighted the ongoing confusion around employment status and the need for greater clarification on this issue for both organisations and individuals. The fact this case had to reach the Supreme Court for a final decision to be made shows the very fine distinctions that can exist in determining employment status and associated rights.

He went on: “We’re still waiting for the government to follow through with its pledge to legislate to improve the clarity of the employment status tests and to take action to align the employment status frameworks for the purposes of employment rights and tax. The CIPD believes an effective way to do this would be to abolish worker status altogether which would provide a clearer distinction between self-employment and employed status.

“It is also crucial that the Government takes action to improve the enforcement of employment rights, starting with the publication of its long-awaited response to the consultation on the creation of a single enforcement body for employment rights.”

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