Workers and the “gig economy”

For those businesses involved in the “gig economy” (which seeks to marry technology with individuals looking to sell their services as self-employed freelancers) an interesting Employment Tribunal case has hit the headlines involving Uber and taxi drivers (Aslam and others v Uber BV and others ET/2202550/15). The case raised the question: Were the drivers genuinely self-employed or were they workers?

Uber, which has over 2 million registered users in the London area alone, argued that the drivers were self-employed and that it was merely a technology platform which put passengers in touch with drivers using its smartphone app. Uber had set up an elaborate system of contracts between the parties to this end.

Seeing through “fictions” and “twisted language” in the contracts, the Tribunal quoted Hamlet saying “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”. In the Tribunal’s view, the idea that Uber was a mosaic of 30,000 separate businesses in London alone was “faintly ridiculous”.

The decision is significant because workers have important rights, such as:

  • Paid annual leave;
  • National Minimum Wage; and
  • Protection from unlawful deduction from wages.

Although the case was a first instance decision of the Employment Tribunal and is likely to be the subject of appeal, it is already having ramifications. Comparisons are being made with the circumstances of drivers for the restaurant delivery firm Deliveroo, whose contracts seek to prevent them from going to court to be recognised as employees or workers.

For more information about worker status or to discuss our new insurance-backed employment service, Employer Protect, and how it can meet the needs of your business, contact or call 0113 201 4900.

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