Supreme Court to make final Uber ruling

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The Supreme Court – the UK’s final court of appeal – will over the next two days hear evidence to arrive at a final ruling over the employment status of Uber drivers in the UK, bringing an end to a saga that began in 2016.

Uber BV and others v Aslam and others will establish once and for all whether or not the 45,000 drivers, mostly in London, are workers and entitled to the national minimum wage, holiday pay and paid rest breaks.

In October 2016 an employment tribunal found in favour of the drivers in a case brought by the GMB union and law firm Leigh Day.

Maria Ludkin, GMB’s legal director, at the time called it “a monumental victory”.

She said: “This loophole that has allowed unscrupulous employers to avoid employment rights, sick pay and minimum wage for their staff and costing the government millions in lost tax revenue will now be closed.”

However, Jo Bertram, then regional general manager of Uber in northern Europe (but who has since left the firm and joined O2), said: “Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss.”

Uber appealed but an employment appeal tribunal in November 2017 supported the original verdict.

In December 2018 the case, which centred on whether the drivers were “workers” while they had the ride-hailing app switched on and were ready to accept work, went before the Court of Appeal. Again, the court supported the original verdict but this time not unanimously: Lord Justice Underhill disagreed with his two colleagues Sir Terence Etherton and Lord Justice Bean and wrote that it was “perfectly explicit in the Agreement that drivers provide their services to the passengers as principals, with Uber’s role being that of an intermediary”.

Bean and Etherton, however, agreed that Uber drivers were under a positive obligation to be available to accept passengers while the app is on, which amounted to “work”.

The Supreme Court case being held over 21 and 22 July will be heard by justices Lord Reed, Lord Hodge, Lady Arden, Lord Kitchin, Lord Sales, Lord Hamblen and Lord Leggatt. The claimants are Uber drivers James Farrar, Yaseen Aslan, Robert Dawson and others.

The respondents contend that, during the periods covered by their claims, they were ‘workers’ for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998. As such, the Respondents claim that they were entitled to the minimum wage, paid leave and other legal protections. The appellants argue that the Respondents were independent, third party contractors and not ‘workers’,” – the case description, from the Supreme Court’s website

The case will have significant implications on the rights of the estimated 5.5 million gig economy workers in the UK – a number that is likely to grow as the coronavirus crisis forces significant numbers of people out of work.

City law firm Bates Wells has represented the former Uber drivers bringing a case against the firm on a pro bono basis since the first appeals case.

Bates Wells associate Rachel Mathieson told Personnel Today: “One of the key issues is that if they are workers, when are they workers? Is it when the app is on – which is not accepted by Uber – or is it when there is a passenger in the car? Uber’s position is that there is no working time essentially.”

She added that there had been cases all over the world on the same issue, with similarly complex legal arguments being heard from both sides.

In March, France became the latest country to agree that Uber drivers were not self employed. In French law there is no separate worker status so the court ruled that Uber drivers were employees. Last September, California’s state senate also ruled that Uber drivers were not self employed.

9 Responses to Supreme Court to make final Uber ruling

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    Dennis Conoley 21 Jul 2020 at 6:18 am #

    Because the pay is under minimum wage Uber drivers have to work enormous amounts of hours to compensate.This becomes dangerous for passengers as fatigue is often a struggle when working..Although Uber brought in a certain amount of hours before the app is switched off a driver is trying even harder to meet personal targets.The whole process becomes full of anxiety and often despair. because the pay is extremely unfair.Uber works on the more drivers the more for them basis.There is no quality about this company and they have actually no respect at all for drivers.How they are still allowed to trade i cannot imagine.I worked from 2015 to this year as I needed a job and have been stressed to the point of illness.Part timers are fine with this kind of work but full time is dangerous. They once paid me for being off ill which was a kind gesture and they could be an amazing company for drivers as well as they already are with the cheap costs for passengers but tthis is to the drivers detriment at present.

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    P Driver 21 Jul 2020 at 6:00 pm #

    I am extremely interested in the final outcome of this case as my own situation, and that of a considerable number of other drivers working for a large, UK logistics company, has many similarities with the Uber drivers. I am classed as self-employed but I work full time plus for the same company doing the same job Mon to Fri, and it has reached the point where on an hourly basis minimum wage is not even reached. There is no sick pay, or holiday pay, and I maintain that it is sheer exploitation by this company. I hope the Uber drivers win their case as it should mean that all similar companies “employing” staff will have to abide by this ruling. However, the company I work for is renowned for avoiding/delaying any payout, costs, expenses, etc in connection with carrying out their work. Good luck to the Uber drivers!

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      Smith 15 Aug 2020 at 2:58 pm #

      P Driver I can’t wait too, I am also in logistic, I am on minimum wage per hour, I get other benefit of employed worker. I have requested a pay rise but, they refused and gave me option either stay on minimum wage or became a self employed, (Ltd) on 11.50£ that include £1.50 of fuel score, which is impossible to achieve, to achieve that you become a dangerous driver by driving slowly by coasting, you get the hint. And you have to work your butt off like 70-80 hours a week, and some drivers think they get paid decently, but they don’t look at the hours they put in, if one work out maybe they are in less than the minimum wage.

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    Al 22 Jul 2020 at 2:12 pm #

    Slave wage industry even some drivers convince themselves they earn more than minimum wage ha

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    John 24 Jul 2020 at 12:32 am #

    I want this global mega big cab company to finally lose their appeal and be made to pay wages to drivers,including holiday and sick pay and that drivers employment is PROTECTED.They cant just sack them easily.

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    Martin Mc Cafferty 28 Jul 2020 at 3:20 am #

    Let’s hope this case sets a new benchmark for fairness and transparency, examples of these contracts are clearly designed to exclude statutory rights for the workforce and exonerate Uber from any responsibility or liability as an employer.

    This contract is a garble of words. It is misleading and designed to confuse. A favourable decision for Aslam & Farrar will enhance confidence in our Justice System and help millions of low paid workers across the UK to gain access to justice in similar circumstances.

    Unfortunately we have many more examples of employers exploiting the lowest paid workers in the UK and as one MP suggested most recently “they are a national disgrace”. Even the lowest paid deserve accesses to justice.

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    Lee 13 Aug 2020 at 7:10 am #

    Why should drivers be treated like slaves so the rich can get richer..These drivers have families and don’t see their kids grow as their hours are ridiculously long and unsociable which can lead to poor mental health..Minimum wage and Living wage is there for a reason.

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    Mark Lewis 14 Aug 2020 at 1:07 pm #

    This case has little to do with the minimum wage… Ubers drivers earn more than the minimum wage. If the drivers become workers, Uber loses its status as a technology company and becomes a transport company, liable to pay VAT on all money it receives. £1.3bn per annum going back to the original ruling of the employment tribunal. Unfortunately they will then need to charge the customers more and pay their drivers less. Be careful what you wish for!

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      Brian 17 Aug 2020 at 6:40 pm #

      If they don’t want to pay taxes they can leave , plenty of other apps that can cover the work .

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