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1st December 2016

Uber Drivers Found to be Workers

An Employment Tribunal (ET) has confirmed that Uber taxi drivers are “workers” for the purposes of important employment legislation; namely the Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Where individuals are classed as workers they benefit from various employment rights including protection from unlawful deductions from wages, entitlement to receive the National Minimum Wage and the entitlement to paid annual leave.

To be classed as a worker, the individual must work under a contract of employment (i.e. satisfy the definition of an employee) or work under another contract (express or implied) whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual. If an individual does not satisfy the definition of a worker, they are often self employed.

In the case of Uber, the company created a system where customers use an app to order taxis and pay for the fare. The taxi drivers were treated by Uber as self employed. The contractual arrangements, in summary, show Uber to be presenting itself as a technology platform facilitating taxi services (and not the provider of the taxi service). Uber London Limited is presented as agent for the drivers and the contract for the taxi service is shown to be between the driver and the passenger.

The tribunal found that the drivers are not required to make commitments to work, but when they sign on to the app, they are regarded as available to accept bookings. The drivers supply their own vehicles and responsible for all running costs. If the driver fails to accept bookings, their access to the app will be blocked or suspended.

The driver is not made aware of the destination prior to collecting the passenger and the app provides recommended directions which should not be deviated from unless the passenger confirms a preferred route. At the end of the journey, a recommended fare is calculated and the driver cannot agree a higher fare.

A number of Uber drivers brought claims to the ET for unlawful deductions from wages as they were not being paid the National Minimum Wage and were not offered paid leave. Two drivers were selected as test claimants.

The ET decided that the drivers are workers when they are in the territory in which they are authorised to drive, they have turned on the app and are ready and willing to accept fares. These periods were found to be working time under the Working Time Regulations and the National Minimum Wage Regulations.

The decision will be of interest to many, especially those involved in similar contractual relationships. It must be noted, however, that this is a first instance decision and is not therefore binding on future cases. The decision is also made on the particular facts of this case.

Source: Chadwick Lawrence

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