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Uber and you

The Uber case on worker status, recently decided in the Supreme Court, has important practical lessons for businesses.

The judgment held that Uber taxi-drivers were not self-employed contractors: they were ‘workers’. This is a specific status in employment law, giving the right to minimum wage, holiday pay and other legal protection. Uber’s extensive control over the drivers was a key determining factor in the verdict.

Significantly, the judgment also emphasised the importance of starting not with the written agreement (if any) between parties when establishing employment status, but with the purpose of the relevant employment legislation. This exists ‘to give protection to vulnerable individuals who have little or no say over their pay and working conditions because they are in a subordinate and dependent position’. This means employers, ‘frequently in a stronger bargaining position’, cannot simply contract out of such protection.

The Uber case relates to the gig economy, but it has wider practical implications. It’s a verdict that should inform thinking generally around the use of non-standard working arrangements, both for those who automatically identify themselves as employers and those who don’t. The employment cost of having to reclassify members of the workforce can be high, and it may be prudent to check now that anyone in a non-employee role has been appropriately classified and that contracts indicate accurately the reality of the working relationships involved. We should be delighted to advise further.

Not everything is equal – true. But maybe being equal is simply not good enough?

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