Supreme Court | Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents)

19 Feb

The Supreme Court has today delivered their unanimous Judgement in the case of Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents). This appeal concerned the employment status of private hire vehicle drivers who provide their services through the Uber smartphone application and followed a finding by the employment tribunal that Mr. Aslam and Mr. Farrar were ‘workers’ and not an ‘independent contractors’ as Uber contended. There was no written contract between the drivers and Uber London, therefore the nature of their legal relationship had to be inferred by the Court from the parties’ conduct.

As a ‘worker’ the men were therefore entitled to ‘workers’ rights including a right to be paid at least the national minimum wage, to receive annual paid leave and to benefit from certain other protections. The Court also considered the related question of what time counts, if drivers are “workers”, as working time for the purpose of the relevant rights.

Although an important judgment, the true impact of the case cannot be established beyond Uber. Each subsequent case will have to be judged on its own merits. As stated by the Supreme Court in this instance, there was no written contract between the parties and facts specific to this case brought the Supreme Court to their judgement that the men were in fact ‘workers’. A different set of circumstances, as may be found in another case, may lead Court to another conclusion. The case does not mean that all ‘independent contractors’ should now be deemed ‘workers’.

In the Uber case factors which were deemed pertinent by the Supreme Court in reaching their conclusion included:

  • Uber sets the fare and drivers are not permitted to charge more than the fare calculated by the Uber app.
  • The contract terms on which drivers perform their services are imposed by Uber and drivers have no say in them.
  • Once a driver has logged onto the Uber app, the driver’s choice about whether to accept requests for rides is constrained by Uber.
  • Uber exercised control over the way in which drivers deliver their services. One method mentioned in the judgment is the use of a ratings system whereby passengers are asked to rate the driver on a scale of 1 to 5 after each trip. Any driver who fails to maintain a required average rating will receive a series of warnings and, if their average rating does not improve, eventually have their relationship with Uber terminated.
  • Uber restricts communications between passenger and driver to the minimum necessary to perform the particular trip and takes active steps to prevent drivers from establishing any relationship with a passenger capable of extending beyond an individual ride .

A link to the Supreme Court’s full decision can be found here.

Law correct at the date of publication.
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