Newsflash: Uber drivers are ‘workers’

uber-250What do we already know?

The law in the UK distinguishes between groups of staff and provides different rights for each group. Broadly these groups are 1) employees, who have the largest selection of legal rights 2) workers who have a more limited selection of rights and 3) the self-employed who have minimal legal rights owed to them (other than contractual rights agreed between themselves and each organisation to whom they provide their services).

For a self-employed, non-employee, to qualify for worker status there must be a contract between the individual and the ‘employer’ under which the individual undertakes to do work personally, and the ‘employer’ must not be a client or customer of a business operated by the individual.

Those who show they have ‘worker’ status can then access a broader range of employment rights such as the national minimum wage, 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year, right to a pension scheme, a maximum 48 hour average working week and rest breaks and protection of the whistleblowing legislation.

What’s new?

An Employment Tribunal has decided in the case of Mr Y Aslam, Mr J Farrar and Others v Uber, available here, that two drivers who provide services to the online taxi firm, Uber, are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to the rights as described above.  Uber had argued that all its drivers were self-employed.

Although this decision is fact-specific, and based on Uber’s business model, it increases the chance of other ‘gig economy’ companies facing claims that their ‘contractors’ have worker status.

This is a timely decision as on 26 October 2016 the Government launched an inquiry, available here, into the future world of work, focusing on the rapidly changing nature of work, and the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed, and those working in the “gig economy”.

It is likely that this Tribunal decision will be appealed to the EAT so watch this space for further updates…

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