Uber Drivers classed as workers in landmark Supreme Court ruling
The UK’s ‘gig economy’ has seen a significant expansion since the start of the 21st century, but the lines that distinguish a self employed contractor from a worker have not always been clear. This lack of clarity was put to the test by two former Uber drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, who brought a case before the Employment Tribunal in 2016. The claimants argued that they should be considered as workers rather than self-employed. After the Employment Tribunal handed down the decision that the drivers were in fact workers, Uber appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was affirmed that the finding of the Employment Tribunal was correct.
Lord Leggatt, when handing down the judgment, said that the lower courts were correct to class the Uber drivers as workers. Furthermore, the Supreme Court upheld the finding that the drivers’ working time is not limited to the time spent on journeys with passengers in the vehicle, but rather that the drivers are considered workers during the time they spend logged into the Uber app. The Supreme Court paid careful consideration to the key factors of control that are placed on the drivers by Uber during their work. From fixing set fares to enforcing penalties against drivers for low ratings or refusal of work, it was clear to the Supreme Court that the drivers could only be classed as workers within a relationship of “subordination and dependency” with Uber, and that the drivers were subsequently entitled to basic workers’ rights, such as paid holiday, rest breaks and the National Minimum Wage.
This case has gained significant media attention over the past few years, and will have a profoundly positive impact for workers across the UK who are engaged in the ‘gig economy’. What is clear from this landmark ruling is that worker status will always be determined by the circumstances which underpin the working relationship, and that no matter the label or classification attached to them, workers are entitled to rely on their inalienable legal rights.