Uber drivers are ‘workers’ for UK employment law purposes

In Uber BV and others v Aslam and others the Supreme Court confirmed that the Uber drivers in the United Kingdom are entitled to core rights such as paid holiday and the national minimum wage.

What Is the Issue?

In the United Kingdom, there are three categories of employment: employees, workers and self-employed contractors. Each category has varying levels of protection under employment law. Employees have the most protection, contractors have the least, and workers sit in the middle. Workers are entitled to core rights such as paid holidays, rest breaks and the national minimum wage. Contractors are not entitled to any of these.

What did the court decide?

The Supreme Court found there is no factual basis for Uber’s contention that it is a technology service provider that acts as an agent for the drivers in their business relationships with passengers. Having rejected that argument, the Supreme Court said that the inevitable conclusion is that Uber contracts with passengers and engages drivers to carry out bookings for it.

What does this mean for employers?

While not changing the law, this case confirms that individuals engaged in the gig economy may well be workers. But they will not automatically be considered so. It will depend on the factual reality of the relationship in each case.

It reminds us that categorising staff as self-employed contractors does not determine their status if, in practice, those “contractors” are treated as employees or workers.

An employer’s contracts may say that people are self-employed contractors. However, if the reality of the situation is that staff members are properly employees or workers, the contracts will not, on their own, prevent them from being found to be employees or workers.

The more control a business has over how a service is provided by someone it calls a contractor, the less likely it is that someone is a contractor in practice.