Uber drivers judged to be “workers” by the Supreme Court

19th February 2021

Are your employee’s contracts open to interpretation?

This morning, the Supreme Court handed down their judgment in the case of Uber v Aslam. It’s the final chapter in a long-running saga concerning the status of Uber taxi drivers.

So what happened?

Uber had maintained that the drivers were independent contractors receiving a fee for each job undertaken. The drivers believed they were “workers” which entitled them to a range of legal rights including the right to paid holiday and national minimum wage.

The court looked carefully at the precise workings of the relationship, examining carefully the degree of autonomy that the drivers had. It concluded that Uber exercised a significant degree of control over the way the drivers carried out their work as to constitute a worker relationship.

What are the wider implications?

Whilst the facts of this are of course particular to Uber, the ramifications are of course much wider and will be felt through the gig economy and beyond. The clear message is that it courts will always look to the reality of a relationship and how it plays out day to day, rather than being bound by what the contract says. So for example, a contract which deems someone to be self employed will not get a company off the hook if on a day to day basis the company is treating them like a worker or employee through the amount of control they exercise in how often they turn up for work and how the task is to be performed.

Getting this wrong can be expensive. Uber drivers can look to claim through the county courts up to six years’ pay if their wages fell beneath minimum wage levels, in addition to 5.6 weeks of holiday pay over a similar period of time.

If you think this decision may impact your business, or want advice on the steps that you can take to avoid falling into the same trap as Uber, our employment team is here to help – get in touch.

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