Landmark Uber Case – What’s It All About?

All Members

Last week, the UK’s Supreme Court, Britain’s highest court, gave a ruling on a landmark case brought by Uber drivers against Uber (Uber BV v Aslam and Others). The Supreme Court ruled that Uber must treat its drivers as workers rather than as self-employed drivers. This means that Uber’s thousands of drivers in the UK are now entitled to be paid the minimum wage and are entitled to statutory annual leave and protection from detriment under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is an important victory for the drivers who often earn very little for their work.

What Did Uber Argue And Why Was It Wrong?

Uber had argued that it was simply a booking app which used self-employed drivers to transport Uber customers and that the contracts between Uber and its drivers reflected that relationship. But the Supreme Court dismissed the argument unanimously, saying that irrespective of what Uber’s contract said, the nature of the relationship between Uber and the drivers, in practice, told a different story.

Uber drivers were very tightly controlled by Uber and although they could decide when they worked, drivers had no control over how much money they could earn other than choosing to work longer hours. This meant that the drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber and the court established that this was a key test in determining whether the drivers were workers or self-employed.

The Supreme Court pointed out that it was not for employers to decide whether or not people were workers and entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay; if that were the case the principles of employment protection legislation would be seriously undermined.

How Could It Affect You?

Potentially the principles established in the Uber case extend into other areas where people have been categorised as ‘self-employed’. If you’re undertaking any sort of self-employed work where you’re contracted to work for a company, the decision in the Uber case could affect you (irrespective of what any contract with the company might say).

Whether or not someone is a worker or self-employed depends very much on the facts of the case but if you think this might be relevant to work you’re undertaking please contact the Union’s Advice Team straight away on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1) so that we can assess your case. You might be a consultant, cleaner, accountant, beautician, childminder, carpenter… the list goes on!

Please bear in mind that if you joined the Union recently we may treat this issue as one that pre-existed your membership, in which case we will not be able to provide representation.

The UK does not have a labour inspectorate so in the majority of cases employers will not respond to this judgement ‘off their own bat’; it will be down to individuals to challenge the point with companies. Even after Uber’s high profile loss in the Supreme Court, Uber won’t necessarily apply the decision to other Uber drivers, who may need to bring further claims at the Employment Tribunal.

As an established member of Affinity, we’ll give you all the support needed to ensure that you receive everything you’re entitled to and, where appropriate, we will pursue cases at the Employment Tribunal on your behalf.

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