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Tribunal considers employment status of Uber drivers

There are three main types of employment status in the UK; employee, worker and self-employed contractor. Each has its own characteristics and associated levels of protection with employees gaining maximum protection and contractors the least.

The key issues to consider when deciding employment status of the drivers are:

  • Personal service – whether a person is required to provide the service personally
  • Mutuality of obligation – does the employer have to provide work and does the employee have to undertake that work?
  • Degree of control – does the employer have sufficient control to decide the time and place that the work will be done and the way it shall be done?

Self-employed

Genuinely self-employed contractors will generally have a lot of flexibility over the way they work and none of the above factors would be present. Indicators of self-employment include; no obligation on the self-employed contractor to accept work, the individual being able to determine how the work is to be done, the ability to provide a substitute to carry out the work and having the freedom to decide their own hours and place of work.

Uber argues that it simply facilitates a connection between drivers in business on their own account and customers. A workflow is available for drivers to manage and they can accept or decline work bringing the question of mutuality to the forefront.

Workers

A worker is an intermediary between employed and self-employed. A worker is not afforded with full ‘employee’ rights but they are given significant rights and protections including the right to holiday and statutory sick pay and the national minimum wage. It can be difficult to determine whether a person is a worker as there may be elements of each of the three factors. Each case would depend on its own specific facts.

The Uber drivers argue that they are workers because Uber has a significant degree of control over their work. For example, there are set routes, use of driver ratings, deductions from fares for bad reviews and penalties for not picking up customers. There is also a requirement to provide a minimum number of hours service and strict insurance requirements. Drivers are also unable to substitute another person to undertake a job and may suffer consequences for failing to maintain a minimum volume of work suggesting elements (a) and (b) are also present on the drivers’ analysis.

Comment

The number of self-employed contractors in the UK has increased substantially over the last few years. If the drivers were successful, it could have a significant impact on the way businesses operate throughout the UK and result in an influx of legal challenges potentially for emerging business models that defy conventional boundaries of employee status.

The Tribunal will now consider the arguments put forward but judgement is not likely to be received for quite a while. We will keep readers updated on any developments.

If you would like to speak to us about employment status, please feel free to email us  or contact us on 0191 282 2880 for a no obligation chat.

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