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Uber drivers classified as workers

Two Uber drivers have won a landmark case to be classified as workers rather than self-employed contractors.

Workers enjoy greater protection under employment law than those who are self-employed. For example employers must pay workers holiday pay, sick pay and the National Minimum Wage. Workers are also entitled to whistle-blower protection and to the statutory minimum length of rest breaks.

Uber had argued that its drivers were self-employed contractors rather than workers as they can choose when and where they work. The London Central Employment Tribunal disagreed and held that the drivers engaged by Uber were not self-employed but fell within the definition of ‘worker’. The tribunal noted that Uber interviews and recruits drivers, Uber fixes fares and drivers are unable to agree a higher sum with a passenger, Uber determines issues about rebates and handles customer complaints, it accepts the risk of loss and previously operated a scheme guaranteeing minimum earnings for new drivers.

This decision could have far-reaching implications for Uber and other similar businesses in the so called ‘gig economy’. Whilst a judgement from an employment tribunal is not binding on other tribunals, the decision can still influence similar cases. Uber have confirmed that they will look to appeal the ruling and maintain their drivers are self-employed. The company also believes that the overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want the freedom and flexibility to drive when and where they want.

Similar claims are currently being brought against CitySprint, eCourier and Excel. However, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be as each of these claims will be dependent on the particular working arrangements between the individual and the employer.