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Uber ruling shows ‘glaring need for clarity’ in employment law

The Supreme Court ruled Uber drivers are workers and not self-employed, in landmark judgement

The UK’s highest court has upheld the High Court’s decision that the Uber drivers are not self-employed and should be classed as workers, meaning they are entitled to a wage, holiday pay and sick pay. 

In what has been described as a landmark case for the gig economy, Lord Justice Leggatt said that the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the drivers worked “for and under” Uber, despite the written contractual agreement, and were in fact working from the moment they logged into the app.

He said that “it was wrong in principle to treat the written agreements as a starting point in deciding whether an individual is a worker” and the services provided was “very tightly defined and controlled by Uber.”

Leggatt added that the purpose of employment law is to protect “vulnerable individuals who have little or no say in their pay and working conditions”.

Uber judgement will ‘shape future cases’ 

The case against Uber was originally brought to an employment tribunal by former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam in October 2016. Despite winning the case, Uber has appealed the decision every step of the way arguing that drivers are self-employed.

Paul Jennings, partner at Bates Well – the law firm representing the claimants – said: “The Supreme Court’s judgement is a clear and powerful restatement of the importance of basic employment protections. It will shape the future cases concerning the gig economy.”

In response to the ruling, industry experts are saying the case highlights the need for the UK’s employment law to be clarified.

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “There is a glaring need for clarity in this area. The gig economy is enormously complex, including many people who are legitimately self-employed and many others who really, based on their working circumstances, should be classed as workers.” 

‘Employment status isn’t always clear cut’

“It is a patchwork of grey areas between employment and self-employment: the only way to resolve this tangle is to clarify employment status in UK law.” 

Employment status expert Seb Maley, CEO at Qdos, added: “The ruling should serve as a stark reminder to businesses that employment status isn’t always clear cut, and that decisions must be made carefully. If a firm engages an individual under the wrong status, the cost – both financially and reputationally – can be massive. 

“But while many gig economy workers want greater protection and employment benefits, we shouldn’t assume that all self-employed people need them. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people working for themselves who want to remain entirely independent.”

Industry professionals believe this ruling will set a precedent for other app-based services that use this business model such as Deliveroo and UberEats. 

Gig workers need to ‘take control’ of their employment status

In fact, Deliveroo is already facing a court battle over whether its drivers can join trade unions. 

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain has brought a case against the Central Arbitration Committee over the High Court’s decision in 2018 that Deliveroo riders cannot form a collective bargaining unit because they are self-employed and can have another person substitute for them.

Speaking about the Deliveroo case, Elena Cooper, employment consultant at Discreet Law, said: “Whatever the judgement, gig workers really should start considering their own options and taking control of how they want to be categorised moving forward. 

“If an individual wants trade union representation, there are inevitable consequences arising from that decision, for both parties.”

By Contractor Weekly

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7 thoughts on “Uber ruling shows ‘glaring need for clarity’ in employment law”

  1. Corruption of the Day

    Kwasi Kwarteng (Secretary of State for Business):

    “Today I’ve introduced a Bill to create the Advanced Research & Invention Agency” (ARIA).

    “… autonomy and flexibility outside the standard government contracting and granting standards. The ARIA bill will provide the agency with EXEMPTION FROM THE EXISTING PUBLIC CONTRACTING REGULATIONS, enabling ARIA to precure vital services and equipment with maximum flexibility …”

    “The government’s intention, therefore, is for ARIA NOT TO BE SUBJECT TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT to reduce the administrative time required to process FOI requests and protect Britain’s competitive advantage.”

    “… allowing the agency a much higher tolerance for failure than other UK funding agencies.”

    • Jamie M

      The extent and level of their corruption is absolutely brazen.
      The bribes from these donors will be used against dissenters. Expect many more targeted propaganda ads from this dark money come the next election.

  2. Corruption of the Day

    Robert Jenrick’s (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and MP for Newark) constituency has just received the maximum amount of money it could have possibly received from the Towns Fund, £25M.

    Jenrick has denied that he had anything to do with his own department’s decision to select Newark. But said during the 2019 election campaign “I helped to secure a £25 million town deal which I hope will improve the public realm and make the town centre a more attractive place to spend time in.”

    Jenrick has insisted that Jake Berry, his junior minister, selected Newark. Jenrick has admitted, however, that he selected Darwen, in Berry’s constituency.
    Newark is the 270th most deprived town in the country, Darwen is 289th.

    When Newark was chosen, Jenrick speculated that the money from the Towns Fund could be spent on a refurbishment of the castle’s gatehouse in an interview with his local paper.

    Jenrick then sat on Newark’s Towns Fund board. The board chose which local projects the money would go on. Mysteriously, Jenrick quit the board days before the NAO released a damning report on the Towns Fund.

    Today it was announced that Newark was one of the lucky few towns to get the full £25 million! Remember the castle gatehouse project? Well guess what Jenrick’s local paper is telling us the money will go on.

  3. Gabriel

    The 7 Nolan Principles for those in public life:
    .Selflessness
    .Integrity
    .Objectivity
    .Accountability
    .Openness
    .Honesty
    .Leadership

  4. Johnny

    Test and Trace spending will top an astronomical £37bn, budget small print reveals.

    T&T needs to be given over to the NHS now if we want it to be effective before next winter.
    The NHS is delivering vaccines effectively on a tiny fraction of that cost. Dido Harding and her Serco chums must be investigated for embezzling a sum that would make Gaddafi blush.
    How can that amount of money disappear on this? Where is the enquiry? Where are the auditors?

    • Gabriel

      I’m sure that the UK Anti-Corruption Champion John Penrose will be all over this when he finds out.
      If he were not married to Dido Harding!

  5. Corruption of the Day

    Court Order shows Boris Johnson misled Parliament over Covid contracts

    3 days after the High Court ruled Government had acted unlawfully by failing to publish Covid contracts, Boris Johnson stood up in the House of Commons and reassured MPs and the public that all Covid-related contracts were “on the record”. However, the final Order handed down by the Judge today shows that what the Prime Minister told the House was not true.

    Remarkably, the Judge’s Order is based on Government’s own figures – so at the same time as Johnson was falsely reassuring MPs, Government lawyers were preparing a statement contradicting him – revealing 100 contracts and dozens of Contract Award Notices were missing from the public record.

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