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Employment Law: Are Uber drivers workers?

The Court of Appeal has confirmed this month that Uber drivers are workers rather than self-employed, in Uber v Aslam. The drivers’ contracts described them as independent contractors. They had to undertake an interview and an induction. They had to perform the work personally. Drivers used their own vehicles, but Uber stipulated appropriate brands and presentation standards. In providing jobs, Uber controlled the key information. They would provide drivers with a passenger’s first name but no surname, contact details or destination. Uber had complete control of the fares. Financial penalties could be incurred for departing from Uber’s suggested route.

When signed onto the Uber App, drivers did not have to accept jobs. However, Uber’s terms said drivers should accept at least 80 per cent of trips. There was an expectation that drivers would accept jobs whilst logged onto the App. Drivers who declined more than three jobs in a row would be signed off the App by Uber. If a driver’s average rating fell below 4.4 (out of 5), they would be removed from the platform and their accounts deactivated.

The employment tribunal found that the drivers were workers when they had switched on the App, were in their working ‘territory’ and able and willing to accept jobs. The employment appeal tribunal agreed. The Court of Appeal upheld the drivers’ worker status. The contractual documents did not reflect the true nature of the relationship between Uber and its drivers. Uber exerted significant control over its drivers. The Court also confirmed that the drivers were ‘workers’ from the moment they were in their working territory with the App switched on – they were at the disposal of Uber during this time.

Interestingly, this decision was a ‘majority’ decision. A very experienced judge did not agree that the drivers were workers. He said that the position was similar to taxi drivers who are usually self-employed. He also said the drivers should only be treated as ‘working’ when they had accepted a trip. The case has been referred to the Supreme Court. We have not yet heard the last word on worker status.