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You can’t fail to have seen last Friday’s well-publicised decision in the case brought by GMB Union on behalf of 2 drivers against Uber.

The tribunal found that, despite the labelling of Uber’s drivers as self-employed they are in reality ‘workers’ for the purposes of employment legislation, and whilst they are not ‘employees’ and with the highest level of protection provided by employment legislation, they do have some key employment rights, at potentially significant cost to Uber.

The decision has provided a warning to organisations which employ people with the intention of them being ‘self- employed contractors’ and on the assumption they will have no employment rights.

Rights

As a result of their ‘worker’ status, Uber drivers will be entitled to national minimum wage, annual leave (amongst other forms of leave) and rest breaks. Further to this, Uber must put in place safeguards to protect their drivers from unlawful deductions from wages, discrimination and whistleblowing.

This has left Uber with the possibility of having to back-pay drivers for unpaid benefits.

The reality of employment

In reaching its finding the tribunal examined the relationship between Uber and its drivers and identified a number of significant factors, including:

  • The conditions placed on drivers
  • The requirement on drivers to accept jobs from clients
  • The consequences for non-acceptance  jobs
  • Uber’s control of information between itself and drivers
  • The control Uber has over the drivers’ performance

The ramifications of the decision are broad and could extend the availability of employee rights across all industries, not just the so called ‘gig economy’.

Going forward

This is a first instance decision and therefore has not set a legal precedent and Uber bosses have expressed a desire to appeal the decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the result of which will be closely followed by employers, especially those who engage so called ‘self-employed contractors’.

Given the potential costly ramifications for employers, those who engage so called ‘self-employed contractors’ should review not only the documentation they have in place stating the nature of the relationship, but should also examine how these individuals are engaged practically on a day to day basis to ensure this reflects the label placed on it as employers could find they have far more ‘workers’ or ‘employees’ with employment rights than they ever set out to achieve!

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If you have any queries about the decision, its impact and how to protect yourself or your business please do not hesitate to contact Tom Evans from our Employment & HR Team on 0151 230 1217 or tom.evans@dtmlegal.com.

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