A top employment lawyer at Thursfields Solicitors has responded to today’s ruling by the UK Supreme Court that Uber drivers must be treated as workers rather than as self-employed.
The decision means thousands of Uber drivers are set to be entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay, leaving the ride-hailing app facing a hefty compensation bill.
Jade Linton, a HR business partner and associate director in the Employment department at Thursfields, explained that the ruling came after a long-running legal battle, where Uber had appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds.
Jade said: “This final decision is worthy of discussion and debate but there are two important take-aways from this case for employers, especially those in the so-called gig economy.
“The first is that in the event of a dispute over the status of an individual, for example whether someone is a worker, self-employed or an employee; the tribunal will always assess the reality of the situation and not simply what the documentation says.
“Secondly, this decision highlights the distinction between being ‘available’ for work and ‘performing’ the contracted task.
“In this case, the drivers were found to have been ‘workers’ from the moment they had switched on the Uber app, as this demonstrated their ‘availability’ to work even if a fare had not yet been collected at this time.”
Uber is being challenged by its drivers in multiple countries over whether they should be classed as workers or self-employed.
The company itself has said that the UK ruling centred on a small number of drivers and it had since made changes to its business, but Jade said it could have wider consequences for the gig economy.
She added: “As always, tribunal findings are made on a case-by-case basis, but legal precedents do have an accumulative value, and this sort of ruling will have far reaching and hard felt consequences for the gig economy.”