Many of you will have heard of the taxi smartphone app Uber, a company that has grown rapidly in a short space of time with its innovative way of providing cheap and reliable taxis through its workforce of self employed drivers across the world.
By having a self employed workforce, Uber believe that its drivers have the freedom to choose how much and when they want to work, whilst also being able to avoid unruly fares and customers by the ability to post and receive reviews on their service. However, as Uber drivers are engaged on a self-employed basis, they are not entitled to common workplace rights such as holiday pay, sick pay, National Living Wage or pension contributions.
The online transportation network are now involved in the ‘UK employment law case of the year’, following a legal challenge from a group of 19 drivers who have taken the company to the Employment Tribunal in London, arguing that they should be recognised as workers as opposed to self-employed.
The case is centred around two aspects, the control that Uber has over its drivers and the nature of the business itself. Uber’s position is that they are simply a technology company and do not provide a transport service, they are just the electronic conduit between the taxi drivers and their customers. They claim to have no control over their drivers, who can work when and for how long they want to work.
The drivers have challenged Uber, claiming that they are actually workers on the basis that they are controlled by the company, as they have to follow customer instructions, and that Uber are involved in every aspect of the process of what they do – they do not just facilitate a transaction between the customer and the driver.
If this group of drivers are held to be workers by the Tribunal, this will have significant employment law implications for Uber. Even though workers have fewer rights than employees, they are still entitled to certain aspects such as the national minimum wage, holiday pay and protection against discrimination. These rights are not afforded to the self-employed.
A decision is not expected for several weeks, but if the Tribunal rules in favour of the drivers, this case could have an impact on other companies who currently operate such a model – for example Deliveroo, who are widely reported to currently have clauses (contrary to s203 of the Employment Rights Act), that prevent their couriers bringing Tribunal claims against them.
This case highlights the increasing changes in workforces and evolution of employment law in general. Businesses need to be careful to ensure that terms and conditions of any self-employed relationships are documented in an appropriately drafted consultancy agreement when engaging the services of the self-employed.
Here at Farleys Solicitors our specialist Employment Law & HR team specialise in advising on employment status and consultancy agreements and can advise you on any queries you may have regarding your business’ employment practices. For further information call 0845 287 0939, alternatively please complete an online enquiry form.