A rift in the “Gig Economy” as Uber drivers classed as workers

Uber drivers are workers, and should receive workers’ rights, the Employment Tribunal has decided. The rights they should receive include the National Minimum Wage, entitlement to paid annual leave and protection from unlawful deduction of wages.

In the case, much-publicised by the GMB Union on behalf of Uber drivers, they argued that the drivers are in fact ‘workers’ as defined by the Employment Rights Act 1996, opposed to being ‘self-employed’. The tribunal concluded that the Uber drivers are workers, when they’re:

  • in the territory in which they are authorised to drive
  • have turned on the Uber app
  • are ready and willing to accept fares

Uber is exerting control over drivers to ensure a quality of service, which may lead to them being defined as ‘workers’ under the law.

The level of control Uber exerts over the workers includes taking what is effectively disciplinary action on them if they receive complaints. For example, Uber locks drivers  out of the app when they do not accept and satisfy a certain number of fares. When considering these factors, the Tribunal determined that Uber and its drivers had  a ‘working’ relationship.

The outcome of the Uber case has already had an impact on other businesses. Workers from  other businesses  that operate similar working arrangements are now claiming that they are also entitled to workers’ rights. Individuals are raising issues with companies like Amazon and Deliveroo, claiming they’re working “illegal hours”, and being paid less than the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.

Uber will appeal this decision, and at this stage the case does not create a definitive UK legal precedent. However, this decision has naturally caused a stir in the working patterns of the “gig economy”. The distinction between “worker” and “self-employed” status will almost certainly create an increase in the number of individuals considering their own working arrangements and status. This may lead to a raft of claims for businesses that operate similar working patterns. Businesses, therefore, would be well advised to conduct an internal review  with any current self-employed contractors, and assess the degree of control the business has over them.