Uber loses in the Supreme Court - What can we learn about employment law?

The ongoing case of Uber vs. Aslam has recently come to a close in the Supreme Court. Following an initial employment tribunal in 2016 involving two former Uber drivers, which saw the judge rule that those who work for Uber are considered ‘workers’, not ‘self-employed subcontractors’, the case was moved to appeal by Uber in 2017, and later addressed in the High Court in 2018. 

With the ruling remaining in all three tribunals, Uber made a last attempt to have it overruled by escalating the appeal to the Supreme Court - the highest court in the British legal system. 

It has recently been announced that the Supreme Court found the original ruling to stand - Uber drivers are indeed, in the eyes of the law, workers, deeming them so from the moment they log into the app and make themselves available for work in the area, to the moment they log out of the app at the end of their working day, effectively signing off. 

As a result of this ruling, Uber drivers are entitled to claim national minimum wage, including back pay, and this is based on the full working day, not just for the instances they were transporting a passenger. 

Drivers are entitled to claim up to two years’ back pay, or £25,000 - whichever is the larger amount, and may do so by seeking an employment tribunal. For claims exceeding this amount, for up to six years’ back pay, drivers may address their claim in the County Court. 

In addition, as workers, drivers will also be able to claim 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave every year, and will have whistleblowing and similar employment rights. This judgement, however, does not entitle drivers to full ‘employee’ rights, such as the right to redundancy payment, or the right to claim unfair dismissal. 

What does the Uber case teach us about Employment Law? 

This latest ruling could change the gig economy moving forward, and it could directly impact your own business if you regularly work with self-employed subcontractors or casual workers. 

As such, it’s important to get to grips with the key differences between an employee, a worker, and a self-employed person. 

What are the differences between an employee, a worker, and a self-employed person? 
Whilst there are a number of similarities between these roles, there are also a number of key differences which you need to be aware of. 

Employees: 

  • Have an employment contract 
  • Are provided with regular work 
  • Are obliged to carry out the work they are contracted to do 

Employment rights for employees include: 

  • Being given written terms which outline the rights and responsibilities associated with the role 
  • Being paid national minimum wage 
  • Being given payslips with each pay 
  • Being protected against unlawful discrimination in the workplace, whistleblowing, and unfair treatment (whether they are full-time or part-time) 
  • Receiving sick pay, holiday pay, and paid parental leave 
  • Being able to claim redundancy payment and unfair dismissal (after two years of service) 

Workers: 

  • Have a contract for their services 
  • Have no obligation to complete a set amount of work (for example, in zero-hour contracts), but should complete the work they have agreed to do 

Employment rights for workers include: 

  • Being given written terms which outline the rights and responsibilities associated with the role 
  • Being paid national minimum wage 
  • Being given payslips with each pay 
  • Being protected against unlawful discrimination in the workplace, whistleblowing, and unfair treatment 

A person will be considered as self-employed if they: 

  • Are responsible for managing how and when they work 
  • Are a freelancer, or the owner of a company 
  • Send invoices to receive their pay 
  • Get contracts to provide services to clients 
  • Are able to send someone else to do the work for them 
  • Are able to work for a range of different clients and charge different fees 
  • Do not receive holiday pay or paid sick leave 

Those who are self-employed do have fewer employment rights, however some basic entitlements are: 

  • Protection for their health and safety whilst on a client’s premises 
  • Protection against discrimination 

Employment Law involves constantly changing legislation, and as such can be difficult to follow and stay up to date with. 

At DRN, our expert solicitors offer a range of HR services as part of a comprehensive package, which can be tailored entirely to suit your needs, and the needs of your business. 

For more information, please get in touch with a member of our team on 01282 433241.