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UK Court Confirms Uber Drivers Are Have A More “Employee” Type Relationship

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The UK Supreme Court has decided that Uber drivers are “workers” for UK employment law purposes.

In reaching that decision, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the decision of the original Employment Tribunal and agreed with the decisions of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal.

This judgment confirms that the Uber drivers in the United Kingdom are entitled to core entitlements such as paid holiday and the national minimum wage.

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The Supreme Court did not agree with Uber on any of its points. Its findings included, in summary, that:

1. Contrary to Uber’s argument, the contractual documentation is not the “starting point” in determining whether an individual is a worker.

Given relative bargaining strengths, the employer has most of the influence over the contract drafting. It would be wrong for the employer to be able to dictate status through the drafting and so deprive the worker of protection. It has long been accepted that an Employment Tribunal should look beyond the written agreement where it is asserted that the agreement does not reflect the true nature of the relationship.

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In order to ensure that employment legislation achieves its purpose of protecting vulnerable workers, an Employment Tribunal’s analysis needs to consider what actually happens in practice and all other circumstances. The written contract (if one exists) is only one part of that analysis.

2. Applying that to the Uber drivers here, the Supreme Court found that the Employment Tribunal had been right to find that they were workers.

Although the drivers were free to choose when and where they worked, five particular aspects of how the relationship between the drivers and Uber operated were significant:

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a) Remuneration was effectively fixed by Uber, not the drivers.
b) The contractual terms were dictated by Uber.
c) Once logged into the Uber app, the driver’s choice around accepting requests was constrained by Uber.
d) Uber exercised significant control over the way in which drivers delivered the service.
e) Uber restricted communication between the passenger and driver to the minimum necessary to perform the trip.

The Supreme Court also confirmed the Employment Tribunal’s decision regarding what constituted working time for the drivers. This was the time that the driver was logged into the Uber app within the territory in which the driver was licensed to operate and was ready and willing to accept trips, contrary to Uber’s argument that only time spent driving passengers to their destination constituted working time.

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