The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has handed down its decision in Uber’s appeal against the finding that its drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to the statutory protections afforded to workers.
Aslam and others v Uber BV and others, EAT
A group of Uber drivers brought claims in the employment tribunal for unlawful deductions of wages resulting from Uber’s failure to pay both the national minimum wage and holiday pay. Two of the drivers were selected as test cases, to determine whether they were ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to the under-payments claimed.
In November 2016, the tribunal upheld their claim finding them to be ‘workers’ (see our previous summary of the tribunal’s decision).
Uber appealed against the tribunal’s decision to the EAT.
The EAT has rejected Uber’s appeal, upholding the tribunal’s decision that the Uber drivers are 'workers'.
The tribunal was entitled to find that the contractual documentation did not reflect the reality of the arrangement between the parties. The EAT rejected Uber’s argument that it merely acted as ‘agent’ in facilitating the provision of transport services by drivers to passengers, as has been established in previous cases against taxi firms. The tribunal was not denying the possibility of individual taxi drivers operating as separate businesses; it was just not what it had found to be the case here. It was entitled to take into account factors including the scale of the business and the evidence of drivers being integrated into it as being indicative of ‘control’ by Uber, rather than the drivers working on their own account.
The EAT also rejected Uber’s argument that the tribunal should have disregarded certain aspects of the relationship that resulted from the regulatory regime applicable to private hire vehicles. This was part of the overall factual matrix for the tribunal to consider.
It further agreed with the tribunal’s conclusion that once the drivers had logged on to the app, they were expected to accept assignments and were therefore properly regarded as being available to Uber and at its disposal.
This decision comes as no surprise and is the latest in a series of decisions concerning the gig economy upholding 'worker' status. This is not the end of the road, however, with a number of other cases still in the pipeline.
It is highly likely that Uber will seek to appeal the EAT's decision, possibly by 'leapfrogging' the Court of Appeal and going straight to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is already due to hear the Pimlico Plumbers appeal on the issue of employment status in February 2018, so it is possible that the two cases could be heard together.