BREAKING NEWS: UBER loses appeal to the Supreme Court – their drivers are ‘workers’
Judgement handed down on 19th February 2021
Uber is a private hire vehicle booking service operating within the UK and internationally. Drivers have a smartphone app which links them with passengers. A claim was brought by the drivers that they are not self-employed but rather that they are workers therefore entitled to national minimum/living wage, paid leave and other legal protections which are afforded to workers and not to self-employed. The argument about employment status was a preliminary issue at the Employment Tribunal which found the drivers were workers and were working from the point which they had the Uber app switched on, were within the territory they were authorised to work within, and they were able/willing to accept new assignments. This decision was then appealed to, and rejected by, the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal, and today the Supreme Court.
This case has been closely followed by those working within the “gig-economy” and will have considerable financial implications for Uber and other companies which provide work on this basis. Uber now face a bill for drivers’ pay for all the time which the drivers had their app switched on (and not just when they had a passenger). Backpay would be limited to 2 years’ pay or £25,000 (whichever the larger) in an employment tribunal but this could be 6 years’ back pay where a claim is brought to a county court.
It is important to bear in mind that the Tribunals and Courts will not be swayed by the documentation which you have in place but rather will look at the nature of the relationship itself to determine the employment status.