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Vedder Thinking | Articles "Uber drivers are workers" says UK Supreme Court

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This morning, 19 February 2021, the UK Supreme Court handed down judgment on the case of Uber v Aslam [2021] UKSC 5.

In a unanimous, landmark decision, the Supreme Court agreed that Uber drivers were “workers”, not self-employed contractors, for the purposes of UK employment law. Worker status entitles drivers to (amongst other things) 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave per year and sick pay and, crucially, to be paid at least the statutory minimum wage (which can be backdated).

The Supreme Court further clarified that Uber drivers are entitled to be paid minimum wage for the entirety of the period that they are logged into the app and are ready and willing to accept trips, and not just during the periods that they are driving passengers to their destinations.

The Court emphasised that what is important is the reality of the relationship between the parties, and noted the following:

  • Uber sets the fare for its drivers’ journeys, thereby dictating how much drivers are paid for their work;
  • Uber imposes its own contractual terms on drivers who wish to work through the app;
  • drivers’ choices about whether to accept ride requests are constrained by Uber;
  • Uber exercises significant control over the way in which drivers deliver their services; and
  • Uber restricts communications between its passengers and drivers.

The impact of this decision, to Uber, its drivers and the gig economy at large, cannot be understated. Going forward, and barring legislative intervention, Uber and other businesses operating in the platform or gig economy will need to fundamentally reassess both their labour relationships and the viability of their business models in light of this morning’s judgment. How Parliament and businesses choose to respond is sure to have significant and far-reaching consequences for the shape and future of the UK economy



Professionals



Jonathan Maude

Partner



Esther Langdon

Associate



Daniel Stander

Associate