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Uber drivers: employees, workers or self-employed?

Since we wrote the blog below, a tribunal has decided that Uber drivers fall ‘full square’ within the definition of workers – we discuss the decision in our blog: Uber and bogus self-employment: a wider warning?

Users of Workbox, the employment team’s online HR site, can access detailed information on the different rights of employees, workers and the self-employed, along with guidance on identifying which category your staff fall into, on our Employment Status page.

Four drivers working for the app based taxi service Uber have raised claims in the London employment tribunal alleging that they are being denied employment rights. Reportedly they are set to be followed by many more. This follows a recent ruling in California which decided that Uber drivers there are employees and not independent contractors.

The drivers are claiming that they are either ‘workers’ or ‘employees’ and so have a right to the minimum wage and to protection under the Working Time Regulations, including holiday pay and rest breaks. At the moment Uber treats the drivers as self-employed ‘partners’ in the business and does not give them any employment rights or protection.

Uber works by requiring users to click on an app which then uses GPS to locate nearby vehicles.

The drivers are free to choose which fares to accept and do not have to work at any particular times. They are required to maintain their own vehicles and pay for the running costs. They do not have to work exclusively for Uber.

These factors all point towards the drivers being independent contractors. However, the drivers are arguing that they are either ‘workers’ or ‘employees’ on the basis that:

  • Uber controls how much passengers are charged. Passengers pay Uber for the journey, which then pays a percentage to the driver;
  • Uber requires drivers to follow particular routes; and
  • Uber uses a ratings system to assess performance.

When assessing the drivers’ employment status, the tribunal will look at a number of factors including how much control the company has over the drivers in terms of when and how they carry out their role; whether there is an obligation to work and provide work; the method of payment; who provides the equipment; and to what extent the drivers are integrated into the workforce.

Uber operates under a developing kind of business model where work-seekers are matched online with those wanting the service they can provide.

Questions of employment status always depend on their own facts and it will be interesting to see how the tribunal applies the traditional tests for employment status to this new type of arrangement.

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