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19 March 2021 | News

Uber drivers to be classed as “workers”

A recent legal battle involving Uber, the disruptive technology-based challenger to the taxi industry, and two test claimants drew to a close last month, with the Supreme Court ruling that Uber’s drivers are to be classed workers.  Uber had previously held that it simply provided booking agent services to independent contractors.  Uber’s drivers will now be entitled to be paid a minimum wage, paid rest breaks, holiday pay, and protection from discrimination.

The court ruled against Uber on the grounds that Uber controls the drivers’ workload and income by way of performance management and price-setting.  Recently courts have been considering more what is actually happening “in the field” than is described in the sorts of contracts that Uber would issue to its drivers, causing excitement amongst employment lawyers.

It is not unusual for “gig economy” contracts to include provisions that can be used to argue against a claim of worker status, such as the right to send a substitute to do the work, or by hiring tools to the contractor.

The ramifications for other platforms that facilitate the gig economy are also likely to come under scrutiny.  Lawyers may now start thinking that adjusting a contract to ensure that their client can skirt around worker status challenges is no longer worth the required effort

This judgement does not affect those who work for Uber Eats, who are still classed as self-employed.  In responding to the judgement Uber has stated that “worker”, as a classification, is unique in UK employment law. Although workers are not full-blown employees they are still entitled to the similar benefits that part- or full-time employees enjoy.

On the international scene the European Commission will also be making recommendations on the treatment of gig workers, with the likelihood that legislation could come into force across the EU later this year.

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