21st July 2016

Employment Case Looms over Uber

According to the Guardian, Uber are facing a court case which began on 20th July as 19 drivers claim that they should be officially recognised as employees for the company, which has further supported the argument for new rights for the UK’s self-employed workers.

The solicitor of the individuals involved will argue the case that the terms and conditions of their work with the company mean that they are not technically self-employed and are therefore entitled to benefits that they are not currently receiving.

The case – which has been described as ‘the case of the year in UK employment law’ – emphasises the growth of companies who use self-employed workers as opposed to officially keeping employees on their respective system.

The solicitor who will be representing the drivers, Annie Powell, stated that Uber – who are reported to have over 30,000 drivers using their app in London - are arguing that they are a technology company who do not provide a transport service to their customers, but rather put them in touch with drivers. She argues that this is not the case as they are drivers subject to ratings and are not told where their customers need taking, meaning that they are not operating as self-employed businesses.

Annie Powell said: “We are arguing that they are workers ... Workers have fewer rights than employees, but are entitled to the national minimum wage, holiday pay, the right not to be discriminated against and the right not to have deductions made from their salary.”

The regional general manager for Uber UK, Jo Bertram, had a different opinion by saying: “The main reason people choose to partner with Uber is so they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly. Many partner-drivers have left other lines of work and chosen to partner with Uber for this very reason”.

Our Employment Solicitor, Deborah Scales, summed up the case by saying: 

“There is no statutory definition of self-employment although HMRC has produced a list of factors which should be taken into consideration when determining whether an individual is genuinely self-employed.  The test applied by HMRC and the employment tribunals are not necessarily the same. This Uber case is especially interesting because the question of whether the parties have entered a ‘sham’ contract that obscures the true nature of their relationship often comes before tribunals. Usually this involves an individual who, having entered a contract purporting to be a self-employed contractor, subsequently wishes to argue that they are, in reality, an employee or worker in order to claim the benefit of statutory rights. Sometimes it will be the individual who initially wanted to take advantage of the more advantageous tax regime available to the self-employed. Other times it will be the employer wanting to avoid giving staff their statutory employment rights.”  

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