Supreme Court Hands Down Landmark Judgment In Uber V Aslam and Others

Supreme Court hands down landmark judgment in Uber V Aslam and Others [2021] UKSC5, ruling that Uber Drivers are ‘Workers’ rather than Self-employed Contractors.

Two Uber drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, originally brought a claim against Uber in 2016, arguing that they were workers employed by Uber rather than self-employed contractors, and as such, were entitled to rights such as minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks. The UK Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal previously ruled in favour of the Claimants, ruling that the drivers should be classed as workers employed by Uber. The matter was subsequently referred to the Supreme Court, with the case being heard in July 2020.

The Supreme Court has now released its long awaited judgment today, unanimously dismissing Uber’s appeal. Uber’s representatives argued that the drivers are independent contractors who work under contracts made with customers and do not work for Uber. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with this submission citing the fact that as there was no written contract between the drivers and Uber London, their relationship had to be inferred from the parties’ conduct.

The Supreme Court, in their evaluation of the parties’ conduct, made reference to the fact that Uber sets the fare charge and drivers are unable to charge more than the amount calculated by the Uber App. The contract terms on which the drivers perform their services are imposed by Uber and the drivers have no right to challenge this. Uber restricts the communication between passenger and driver to prevent drivers from establishing a relationship with passengers. And ultimately, the fact that the drivers are provided work by way of the Uber app, which is tightly defined and controlled by Uber. Therefore, Uber have a significant level of control over the drivers and the drivers rely on Uber to provide them with work. On that account, the Supreme Court ruled the correct inference to be drawn in this instance is that Uber London contracts with passengers and engages the drivers to carry out the bookings on behalf of it.

On the basis of this rationale, the Supreme Court decided that the Uber Drivers were in fact workers rather than self-employed contractors. Interestingly, the Supreme Court ruled that the drivers are workers from the moment they switch on their app and are available to work, until the time they switch off their app at the end of the day.

As a result of this judgment, Uber drivers are now entitled to claim minimum wage which is to be based on their entire working day rather than basing it solely on when they had a rider in their cab. They can claim up to two years’ back pay or £25,000 (whichever is the larger) in an employment tribunal, or alternatively up to six years’ back pay in the county court. This is in addition to them being able to claim 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year and having whistleblowing rights. However, it is noted that this recognition of worker status does not provide them the right to claim a redundancy payment or claim unfair dismissal.

This is a fundamental judgment which will continue to have long-term consequences for all of the UK’s gig economy, which has an estimated workforce of 5.5 million people. It demonstrates that when faced with cases of a similar nature, The Employment Tribunal will consider the practical reality of the relationship between the parties, rather than focussing on the documentation and what the parties have classed the relationship as being.

Should you require advice or assistance in relation to any of the above please do get in touch with Jan Cunningham or David Mitchell in our Employment Team.