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Uber loses appeal on employment status

BY Anita Mulholland
Employment Law & HR

Taxi-booking service Uber has lost its appeal over the employment status of two of its drivers in a case with far reaching implications for UK businesses in the “gig economy”. Back in November 2016 we reported that Uber’s drivers were successful in their fight to be recognised as workers, with a range of rights including the right to paid holidays, rather than self employed individuals. Uber appealed this decision and the EAT upheld the employment tribunal’s conclusions.

Uber argued that their drivers were self-employed and were under no obligation to use its booking app. The EAT found that the drivers operate under Uber’s control and were integrated into its business. Significantly, they concluded that the drivers were workers when they were driving passengers and when they were signed into the app waiting for passengers. This was based on the reality that the drivers were not necessarily able to accept trips from other taxi firms when they are logged into the app.

This case is one of a spate of recent decisions on the question of employment status each of which has shaped and clarified the law in this area, particularly in relation to the gig economy, It is important to stress that the test for deciding if someone is a worker will be very fact specific and another business model such as this that exhibits a different level of control over its drivers may not result in the same finding. 

Uber is likely to appeal the EAT’s decision and there is a chance this could go straight to the Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeal. It is also worthwhile to note that the findings of the recent Taylor Review outlined a number of recommendations which, if implemented by parliament, could supersede further judicial consideration of this issue.

If you have any concerns about the employment status of your workforce, get in touch with your Employment Solicitor or HR Consultant who will be able to provide more guidance.

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