Charlotte Davies

+44 (0)1223 785267 cdavies@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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Supreme Court decides Uber drivers are “workers”

Employment / 22 February 2021

The Supreme Court has unanimously held that Uber drivers are “workers” for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Working Time Regulations 1998 and the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 meaning that they are entitled to, and can claim backdated, minimum wage and holiday pay (and they will also have whistleblowing and similar rights) for periods spent working for Uber.  

The Court also confirmed that the drivers’ working time includes all of the time that they are in the territory in which they are authorised to work, logged into the Uber app, and ready and willing to accept work.

The Court found that:

1)  The determination of “worker” status under relevant legislation is a question of statutory interpretation, not contractual interpretation.  Although the written agreement is an important factor, it should not be a starting point.  The purpose of the legislation is paramount and in this case that purpose was to give protection to vulnerable individuals in a subordinate position in relation to a person who exercises control over their work; and

2)  Five factors were relevant to the statutory interpretation in this case (and these factors will no doubt be key in future claims within the gig economy):
A.  Uber dictates the rate of pay;
B.  Uber dictates the contract terms;
C.  Uber restricts drivers’ freedom in choosing when to work once logged in to the app;
D.  Uber controls the delivery of the service; and
E.  Uber restricts drivers’ ability to communicate with passengers.

Although a specific platform technology (i.e. the Uber app) was central to the drivers’ working practices and therefore the findings in this case, we expect the decision to have a far-reaching impact on the wider gig economy.

 

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