Are Uber drivers workers? Our take on the latest decision

Yesterday afternoon the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the case of Uber v Aslam and others. I actually found it a surprisingly interesting read, although that may just be me (!) – if you decide to take a look then be warned, it is 70 pages long!

The media headlines were all about the fact that yet again, the courts had concluded that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore entitled to paid holiday and the National Minimum Wage.

Now it is of course true (as we have covered in our previous articles) that Uber has lost the case at every stage so far – the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. Therefore in many ways the Court of Appeal’s decision is not a surprise.

However, it is important to point out that Uber has been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, so the matter is far from over yet. Also, as Uber have pointed out, the Court of Appeal’s decision was not unanimous – the decision was on a 2 to 1 majority basis, as one of the Court of Appeal judges (Lord Justice Underhill) said that he would have found in Uber’s favour. The outcome at the Supreme Court is not therefore as clear-cut as some people would have you believe.

In particular, Lord Justice Underhill pointed out that terms set out in the contractual documentation between the parties should only be ignored if it does not genuinely reflect the basis of the relationship between them. In this case, he felt that it was different from the Autoclenz case (which we covered in our previous articles here and here) in that there were no grounds to ignore the contract that states that the drivers are genuinely self-employed. He also referred to the similarities between Uber’s relationship with its drivers and that of a minicab firm which acts as an intermediary between passengers and drivers. He felt that the Court of Appeal’s majority decision goes too far, and that if the drivers need protection (because of their unequal bargaining position when compared with Uber), then that would be a matter for Parliament to deal with by way of legislation.

So the case goes on – it is expected that it could take many months for it to be heard by the Supreme Court, but we will of course update you as soon as there is any more news.

If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).

Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.