The Employment Tribunal has ruled that two drivers are infact ‘workers’ under the definition in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and therefore are afforded protections not available to genuine freelancers.
This case will be appealed by Uber, they can’t afford not to because of the implications for their global business model. Uber have also looked at the use of driverless cars and this may well speed up that development as ‘engaging workers’ is more expensive than ‘using freelancers / contractors’.
We are often asked by our clients what alternatives there are to having someone working as an employee, especially for new or small businesses, the thought of having employees and all the implications of employment law is enough to prevent them growing their business. The use of contractors, freelancers and gig workers has made business growth possible for many business who would just not have taken the risk with employing staff.
As employment law becomes more and more constraining for businesses, business owners seek ‘new and innovative’ ways of working. Until it is tested in the courts and deemed to be illegal, they will take their chances and that is exactly what has happened here.
In short, with our clients we apply the duck test:
If it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is a DUCK, no matter whether you call it a hen, a bird a chicken or a goose!
In this case the courts have decided that Uber has workers who are DUCKS and nothing else.
The implications are as workers:
- they have to be given paid annual leave
- they are subject to the working time directive regulations
- they are entitled to National Minimum and Living wages and
- they are protected against whistle blowing.
They are not employees, therefore there are other benefits they are not entitled to, but even the above will cause Uber and other companies to have to rethink their financial models.