(1) Uber BV v Aslam and others (EAT); and (2) Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain v RooFoods Limited t/a Deliveroo (CAC)
The employment status of gig economy workers has, once again, been under the spotlight during November.
As has been widely reported, the EAT confirmed that Uber drivers should be classified as ‘workers’ when they are logged in to the Uber app within their designated territory and are able and willing to accept assignments. The decision reiterates that such drivers are entitled to a minimum level of employment rights such as the national minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks. The EAT specifically rejected an argument, brought in reliance on the written contracts in place, that Uber simply acts as an agent for independent drivers, who are in business on their own account and contract directly with the passengers they drive. Our more detailed comments on the Uber proceedings can be found here, and the full EAT judgment can be read here.
Less than a week later, however, the Central Arbitration Committee (a body dealing with collective and union recognition disputes) held that Deliveroo’s delivery ‘riders’ should be classified as genuinely self-employed. As such, they cannot claim workers’ rights and are not entitled to ‘unionise’. This decision hinged primarily on the substitution clause within the riders’ contracts, which gives them a largely unfettered right to appoint others to work on their behalf. Critically, the Committee considered that this right was genuine and that there was evidence of it having been exercised in practice. The obligation of personal service necessary for ‘worker’ status was therefore absent. The full decision can be found here.
Although the outcomes appear inconsistent, they once again confirm that employment status can only be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specific operation of a relationship in practice, rather than the written terms in place between parties. It remains clear that those operating within the gig economy cannot avoid their employment obligations through clever drafting, without also implementing consistent working practices.