In 2016 an Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as ‘workers’ as opposed to ‘self-employed contractors’. This was upheld on appeal by the UK Supreme Court in February 2021. The drivers were held to be workers as:
- Uber set the fares, meaning that they dictated how much drivers could earn
- the contract terms were set by Uber, with the drivers having no say
- ride requests were constrained by Uber, meaning that Uber could penalise drivers for rejecting rides
- Uber monitored drivers' services through a rating system, with the capacity to terminate a driver if their service did not improve after repeated warnings
Being classes as ‘workers’ entitles the drivers to many of the core employment law rights, such as minimum wage and holiday pay. For more information, see the section above entitled ‘What is a worker?’.
Although this particular decision was dependent on the specific facts of the case (especially with Uber providing its services through an app), it has the potential to affect many of the so-called ‘gig economy’ workers who are currently classed as self-employed. Other businesses which use a sharing economy model or who use self-employed drivers will need to reassess their relationship with their workforce.
Another case, Pimlico Plumbers v Smith, ruled in favour of Smith (a plumber providing services for Pimlico Plumbers). He was classed as a 'worker' based on his lack of control over his work (eg he was contractually obliged to do a minimum number of hours per week and could only delegate work to other Pimlico Plumber workers). He wore a uniform, drove a company van and therefore provided personal services to Pimlico Plumbers.
Another case involving a group of delivery couriers at Hermes, the delivery company, won their case at the Employment Tribunal to be classed as workers rather than self-employed contractors. Similar to the Pimlico Plumbers case, the Hermes delivery couriers are now entitled to benefits such as minimum wage and holiday pay. The couriers were not deemed to be self-employed because they are obliged to perform services for Hermes rather than their own business interests. There is a dependent working relationship such that they are not truly self-employed.