The North California District Court's declaration that ‘Uber does not simply sell software; it sells rides’, has been echoed in a UK Tribunal's long-awaited decision in Aslam and ors v Uber BV and ors.
Last week, the London Central Employment Tribunal held that Uber drivers fell within the definition of a ‘worker’ and were entitled to the national minimum wage, holiday pay and whistleblower protection.
The tribunal was unmoved by Uber’s suggestion that it merely ran a technology platform connecting drivers to passengers and found, on the facts, that the relationship between a driver and Uber was one of a worker. Uber contended, amongst other points, that a lack of mutual obligation existed given Uber drivers were not required to turn on the app or, even if logged on, accept any driving assignment that may be offered to them. The tribunal held that the reality was quite different with drivers in effect forced to accept jobs if they were to escape the equivalent to disciplinary action in being logged off the app. From recruitment and training through to dictating the route, a driver was required to follow on every job, the tribunal held that the large degree of control that existed over the drivers was synonymous with that of a worker.
As is often the case with claims of this nature, the case turned on its own facts and, therefore, despite all the hype, there is nothing in the way of new law that we can take from this decision. However, the Uber case is nonetheless high profile and set to rumble on with an inevitable appeal whilst also providing a cautionary tale of the fine tightrope that companies may walk when trying to distinguish between the genuinely self-employed and those who are, at the very least, workers.