Companies need to be 'Uber' careful when engaging Contractors

An Employment Tribunal has ruled that 2 drivers who provide services to “Uber” are workers within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

For those in the know, Uber is essentially an app which can be downloaded onto smart phones that enables passengers to be connected directly with taxi drivers as compared to going through the traditional centralised booking service or just hailing a car in the street.

Under UK Employment Legislation whilst we may have statutory definitions for ‘employees’ and ‘workers’, the lines are often blurred. This has resulted in a plethora of case law as to the status of ‘employees’, ‘workers’ and ‘self employed contractors’.

In the case of Aslam v Farrar V Uber 2016, the Employment Tribunal rejected Uber’s claims that its drivers were self employed. As a worker, this means that they will be entitled to paid annual leave each year, a maximum 48 hour average working week and rest breaks, entitlement to the National Living Wage, and protection under the Whistleblowing legislation.

This is a first instance case, which means it is not binding. Uber have also confirmed that they will be appealing the decision. However, this is yet another example of a company believing they had retained the services of a ‘self employed contractor’, when in fact, (as matters currently stand), they have engaged the services of workers who enjoy some rights under Employment legislation.

This is a cautionary note for businesses that have a high volume of ‘self employed’ contractors, but for example exercise a level of control over how those contractors perform their services. Just because a contractor is described as being self employed, a Tribunal will look at the reality of the situation and will consider matters such as the level of control, whether the contractor can provide a substitute, and the degree of integration into the business, to mention but a few.

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