Employment Tribunal case against ‘Uber’ could drive change in taking on resource

By KMC Human Resources

10 Aug 2016

A new case that started in the Employment Tribunal in July is being called the ‘the case of the year in UK employment law’ and could result in sweeping changes to the way businesses take on additional resources.

By Karen Credie, KMC HR.

The case will see 19 Uber drivers take an employment challenge to the company, claiming that they should be officially recognised as ‘workers’ for the company, and therefore receive the appropriate rights and benefits.

Beginning last month with two test cases, the Tribunal will hear the drivers’ claims that the terms and conditions of their work with Uber actually classify them as ‘workers’ as opposed to self-employed people with their own business. Their legal representatives are arguing that certain elements to the way the Uber model operates, such as the rating system that applies to drivers and the fact that drivers do not receive information as to the drop-off location of their customers, means the drivers are workers rather than self-employed people.

There is also an interesting nuance in the business’ core service that will come into play here; Uber argue that they are not a taxi operator themselves and therefore cannot employ drivers. They claim they are a technology company that simply provide a platform for people wanting a taxi ride to find a driver nearby.

But what does it matter; what’s in a name anyway? Interestingly, the Uber drivers are not claiming that they should be classed as ‘employees’, but ‘workers’. A subtle but significant difference in UK employment law, workers have fewer rights than employees, but are entitled to certain basic rights and benefits such as the national minimum wage, holiday pay, the right not to be discriminated against and the right not to have deductions made from their salary. All of these entitlements have a cost to businesses, making the outcome of this case one that will be eagerly awaited. If the drivers are successful, other businesses might face similar claims. With a growing number of businesses choosing to hire in the help of self-employed people rather than take on employees, the outcome of this case could be relevant for thousands of businesses and may set new guidelines for hiring additional human resource in this manner.

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