Worker status – Uber drivers are workers

Andrew Masters

Partner & Head of Employment

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January 8, 2019

Categories Employment Law Updates

In Uber BV v Aslam and Others the Court of Appeal has held that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to be paid the national minimum wage and given paid annual leave. What is more, the Court has agreed with the Tribunal and the EAT that an Uber driver is working not just when actually transporting a passenger but also while logged on to Uber’s system and waiting to be assigned to a job.

Uber’s argument has always been that it is merely the intermediary between the individual driver and the passenger. The driver, they say is not working ‘for’ Uber at all, but just using Uber’s software platform to find work from individual assignments. However this argument has now been rejected by the Employment Tribunal, the EAT and the Court of Appeal.

The Courts have not been impressed by the elaborate contractual documentation which spells out what Uber believes its relationship with drivers to be. Instead they have chosen to look beyond that documentation and focus on the reality of the relationship.

A particularly important factor is the pressure that is applied to drivers to accept work that is offered to them. A driver who is logged in on the Uber system is presumed to be willing to accept work and if his acceptance rate falls below 80 per cent then he is automatically logged out of the system for a short time as a penalty. The Court of Appeal held that this showed that the driver was engaged under a contract to perform work.

The legal battle is unlikely to end here. The Court of Appeal only reached its decision by a majority with one of the judges accepting that Uber was acting as an intermediary between the driver and the passenger in much the same way as a standard mini-cab firm.

An appeal to the Supreme Court is likely.