Here’s what they said
Following today’s decision by The Employment Appeal Tribunal of Uber that their drivers are workers, Kevin Charles, Consulting Barrister, Crossland Employment Solicitors, specialists in employment law commented: “The Employment Appeal Tribunal has this morning handed down its long-awaited decision in the Uber case, concerning whether or not Uber drivers are ‘self-employed’ or ‘workers’.
“In October 2016, an Employment Tribunal decided that Uber drivers were ‘workers’ of Uber London and therefore entitled to some basic employment rights such as paid holiday leave and the national minimum wage. Uber appealed against the decision arguing, amongst other things, that they operated in the same way as a traditional mini-cab operation but on a bigger scale and utilising modern technology in the form of the Uber phone app.
“They argued that the drivers were self-employed and Uber simply provided opportunities for the drivers to connect with passengers via its on-line app. They also argued that the status of the drivers as self-employed was reflected in the contractual documentation between them and another group company Uber BV.
“The EAT dismissed Uber’s appeal and in relation to the main point of appeal relating to the contractual documentation they said that this was very likely drafted by an “army of lawyers” and although it described the drivers as self-employed this did not reflect the reality, which was that the drivers were fully integrated into the Uber London model and had very little freedom or flexibility in the way they worked.
“The EAT recognised the “imbalance of power” between Uber and the drivers in the working relationship.
“The EAT said that when carrying out its assessment, the Tribunal was entitled to look at the whole factual matrix and in considering their findings it was important to look at the judgment as a whole and in doing so it was clear there was nothing inconsistent or perverse.
“The decision signals what may be viewed as a curtailment of the use, or misuse, of thousands of ‘workers’ within the rapidly growing modern business phenomenon, known as the ‘gig economy’.
“Whilst each case will have to be decided on its own facts the EAT’s decision will no doubt make it easier for many people working in the ‘gig economy’ to argue that you have to look at the reality of the situation and not just the contract and that they now fall within the definition of ‘worker’ where previously they had been treated as ‘self-employed’ and denied access to any employment rights.
“The EAT’s decision will no doubt be welcomed and celebrated by the 40,000 Uber drivers working in the UK and many others in a similar position. However, they may wish to leave the champagne on ice pending any appeal by Uber to the Court of Appeal which will undoubtedly follow.”