An employment tribunal has ruled that drivers engaged by Uber are workers, not self-employed contractors, meaning that they will be entitled to the national minimum wage, paid annual leave and whistleblower protection.

Facts

The taxi-hailing firm has attracted significant media interest over its business model since its launch in the United Kingdom. Service users can hail a cab via an app which the drivers access and then choose whether to accept the fare. Uber maintained that the drivers were self-employed independent contractors, but some drivers claimed that certain attributes of their working arrangements meant that they were eligible for workers' rights. Two Uber drivers, supported by the trade union GMB, brought a tribunal claim.

Decision

The tribunal found that the drivers were not self-employed, but workers. It disagreed with Uber's presentation of its business as a technology platform, rather than a taxi business, facilitating the connection of self-employed drivers with customers through the app. On the facts, the tribunal found that this did not reflect the practical reality.

Instead, the tribunal considered that the drivers undertook to provide work personally under a contract for Uber and so fell squarely within the definition of 'worker' in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (and the working time and national minimum wage legislation).

In the tribunal's view, the drivers were working for Uber when the app was switched on, were within the working territory in which they were licensed to use the app and were able and willing to accept assignments.

Comment

This is the first case to test employment status in the rapidly expanding 'gig economy' and, as such, it has received significant attention. Many businesses of this type use technology as a platform for connecting supply and demand. This decision does not rule out flexible business models which use self-employed individuals. However, in this case the tribunal concluded that Uber's business model does not achieve this.

The decision has potentially substantial financial consequences for Uber, which engages around 40,000 drivers in the United Kingdom, and the company has already confirmed that it will appeal.

Given the significance of the outcome, it is unlikely that there will be a final determination for some time.

For further information on this topic please contact Lisa Dafydd at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000?) or email (lisa.dafydd@lewissilkin.com). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.

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