Uber has lost an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in which it sought to argue that its drivers were not “workers” for the purposes of employment legislation.
Uber drivers had previously brought claims in the Employment Tribunal (ET) for unlawful deductions from wages, arguing that Uber had failed to pay them the national minimum wage and had failed to provide paid annual leave. Uber argued that the drivers were self-employed and that it simply provided the technology platform which drivers then used to find work with passengers.
In Uber BV v Aslam, the EAT has agreed with the ET’s decision that the reality, in this case did not match Uber’s description of its business model, nor did it match the contractual documentation in place. In summary, the EAT held that:
- Whilst it was possible that individual drivers could operate as separate businesses and enter into direct contracts with passengers, this was not the true position in this case;
- The contractual documentation in place did not reflect the reality of the situation; and
- When drivers were signed into the Uber app, they were obliged to be “willing and able to accept trip requests” and were expected to accept at least 80% of those requests. This high percentage was an acceptable justification for the ET to conclude that drivers were available to Uber and at its disposal.
The EAT’s judgment was released on 10 November 2017.
This latest decision continues the steady flow of decisions emerging on the complex topic of employee status, including the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Pimlico Plumbers case which we reported here. It is likely that Uber will appeal the EAT’s decision and we await with interest further news of developments. The Pimlico Plumbers case is currently on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Future decisions on this issue will be very important to mainstream businesses, many of whom use self-employed contractors, as well as to businesses operating gig economy platforms. We do not yet know how the findings of the Taylor Review (on which we reported here) will be implemented by the government but businesses should keep abreast of any changes. We will keep you updated.