Uber has created a system whereby customers use a smartphone app to order a taxi and pay the fare. Prospective passengers booked trips through the app. Upon receipt of a passenger request, Uber located a driver within its pool. Pool drivers supplied their own vehicles and were responsible for all running costs. The selected driver had 10 seconds to accept the booking through the app, failing which Uber assumed they were unavailable and located another driver. Once a driver accepted the booking, Uber placed the driver and passenger in direct contact through the app. The driver was not made aware of the destination until collecting the passenger. The app incorporated software linked to satellite navigation technology, which provided detailed directions to the destination. 

Uber treats the taxi drivers as self-employed and a number of these drivers brought claims for (amongst other things) unlawful deductions from wages (through an alleged failure to pay the national minimum wage) and for a failure to provide paid leave. Several of the drivers were selected as test Claimants and as a preliminary issue the Tribunal had to determine whether the drivers were workers for the purpose of the ERA, WTR and the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (NMWA). If they were genuinely self employed, claims under this legislation would not be able to be pursued. 

Following the evidence, and in a landmark ruling the Tribunal held that the Uber drivers were workers for the purpose of the ERA, WTR and NMWA. In its judgment, the tribunal focussed how much control Uber had over its drivers (for example, Uber set the route that the driver was expected to follow and the drivers were expected to follow Uber’s strict terms of engagement), rather than the issue of mutuality of obligation. 

This decision will not only affect Uber workers, but other large companies who operate similar ‘gig-economy’ type model of working. These companies will now likely face scrutiny over their procedures and the employment status of those who undertake work for them. Given that the decision was a first instance decision it is not binding on future cases. However, it is understood that Uber are intending to appeal the decision.  

Mr Y Aslam, Mr J Farrar & Others v Uber