Supreme Court rules, Drivers are workers not self-employed

A case that we have been tracking for some time now has finally ended and in favour of the drivers with the Supreme Court ruling that Uber Drivers in the UK should be categorised as workers and not contractors.

This judgement in favour of the drivers, upholds previous rulings, it means Uber drivers can now be entitled to the same rights as workers, this means they will be entitled to the same statutory minimum wages, SSP, Family entitlements, holiday payments and they will have the same protection from any acts of discrimination.


The summing up by the court

Lord Leggatt, the judge said that Uber exerts “significant control” over the work of a driver and the service that they can provide. Providing several examples, he said “Uber sets the price of the journey, which the driver has no say in”.

He also said that Uber imposes “what amounts to a penalty” if they turn down a fare and this can then lead to loss of future work., he defined the relationship as “tightly defined” and “controlled”, a driver has little options to improve their standing, other than to work more hours.

The Supreme court considered several elements in its judgement:

  • Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn;
  • Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them;
  • Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides; and
  • Uber monitors a driver’s service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve.


What could the implications be?

Previous rulings in 2017 and 2018 had ruled against Uber and its stance on independent contractor status but appeals by Uber brought the dispute to Supreme court.

The ruling will have implications on Uber, its model and financial implications due to its statutory obligations, Uber will also have to manage further responsibilities due to the implications of Employment Law compliance.

Finally, the ruling should now have wider consequences for the gig economy.


Ubers response to the ruling

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said: “We respect the Court’s decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016”.

“Since then, we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury”.

“We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”


How can we help?

We can help you to determine the status test. we would urge anyone should you have any concerns or further questions about the Employment status of any worker in any general HR or Employment Law matter to contact a member of our team direct, we are as always more than happy to discuss your needs.


Dated 19 February 2021

Author – Fran Crossland



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