In a decision rendered on November 10, 2017, the Employment Appeal Tribunal of the United Kingdom (the “Appeal Tribunal”) rejected Uber’s contention that its drivers were self-employed contractors, and stated that they were in fact “workers”.
In the view of the Appeal Tribunal, the Uber drivers were incorporated into Uber’s business, especially given that they had a strict obligation to accept a minimum of 80 per cent of the trips offered by Uber when they were logged into the application, and the fact that they could not cancel trips once they were confirmed.
Under the relevant employment laws in the United Kingdom, the new status of Uber’s drivers entitles them to some (but not all) of the rights to which a person with “employee” status is entitled. For instance, Uber drivers would now be entitled to receive the minimum wage for the periods of time when they are logged into the Uber application and expected to accept trips, something that did not apply to them when they were considered self-employed contractors.
This decision follows the publication earlier this year of the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, “Good Work” (the “Taylor Review”), commissioned by the Government of the United Kingdom in October, 2016. The Taylor Review contains a series of recommendations focusing on new ways of working and the “gig” economy. One of its key recommendations is that the definition of “worker” be broadened so as to extend statutory employment protection to a wider class of people, which the Taylor Review identifies as “dependent contractors”.
Interestingly, the decision of the Appeal Tribunal in the Uber case appears to confirm a willingness to follow some of the recommendations included in the Taylor Review, despite the absence of legislative and/or regulatory changes to this effect.
Uber is expected to contest the decision of the Appeal Tribunal before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
It will be interesting to see the impact that this decision, as well as the recommendations in the Taylor Review, may have in other jurisdictions, including Canada and the Province of Québec.