Uber – Worker’s Rights only a click away!
Another victory for worker’s rights!
You may remember that we wrote back in November 2016 of the Landmark decision by the Employment Tribunal, which ultimately determined that Uber drivers were not self-employed, but were workers and as such should be entitled to the national living wage, annual leave and other benefits.
(previous article: The Uber Court Case – An end to the gig economy)
At the time of the decision, it was hailed as a fight back against the so-called gig economy of a labour market dominated by the rise of short-term contracts and freelance work. For Unions such as the GMB, it was seen as major erosion against what they consider the gig-economy to be, a form of exploitation with very little protection for its workers.
At the time of writing we noted that the original decision was to be a costly one for Uber, as it was estimated that it would cost at least £13 million a month in national insurance contributions for its 40,000 drivers.
Naturally, Uber vowed to appeal the decision and a year on, we have the outcome of that appeal ( the full judgement can be found here):
What was the Employment Tribunal’s Decision?
Uber contended that their drivers were working in business on their own account directly for their passengers and that Uber only acted as an agent for those drivers in their relationship with passengers.
However, the Tribunal dismissed this line of argument, stating that it is not bound by the labels the parties use to define themselves. The Tribunal stated that its real purpose was to look beyond labels and at the true nature of the relationship between Uber and its drivers. Consequently, it found that:
- The Drivers could not grow their “businesses”;
- The Drivers had no ability to negotiate terms with passengers…
- The Drivers had to work to Uber’s terms and therefore had no control.
Correctly then, the Tribunal determined that this ‘one-sided bargain’ is not compatible with an agency arrangement and did not demonstrate that the Drivers were ‘truly’ self-employed.
The Tribunal concluded that ‘any Uber driver who had the Uber app switched on, was within the territory in which they were authorised to work and was able and willing to accept assignments was working for Uber London Ltd under a “worker” contract’.
So, what does this mean?
The Appeal Tribunal has confirmed that the original decision and approach stands. As such Uber Drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to the same rights and benefits shared under this status.
Whilst the decision has appeared universally popular with many, some commentators have fought back stating; “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” …
Is this the end of the road for Uber’s fight?
This is far from over, Uber have already confirmed that they are preparing to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. The issues presented by this case looks ripe for the Supreme Court and only then will we have certainty, unless the Government decides to implement legislatives changes.
One way the Government could resolve the issues is to provide a statutory definition for the truly self-employed, which would give companies and individuals the certainty they desperately need.