‘Worker’ or Self Employed Contractor in the gig economy?

In a long running case (still under appeal) the courts are attempting to apply some certainty to the distinction between ‘workers’, ‘self employed contractors’ or employees. This is important because workers have significant statutory rights, including the right to receive the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay. In a majority decision the Court of Appeal found the Uber drivers were workers.

The Court of Appeal found that:
The drivers were workers, rather than independent contractors, despite Uber’s contractual documentation stating otherwise.
The drivers had been working for Uber as part of its business rather than being in an agency relationship based on the facts of the case.
The drivers were “working” while waiting for a trip request (i.e ready and willing to accept trips in the relevant territory with the Uber app switched on).
This decision supports existing authority that it may be legitimate to disregard express written terms where they do not describe the true agreement, even when it cannot be shown that both parties intended a sham. For businesses operating in the “gig economy” no matter how contracts are drafted the Employment Tribunal can look beyond the written documents to look at the true nature of the working relationship.

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