Uber faces court battle with drivers over employment status
Given the ever growing popularity of the Uber brand, this case will probably receive quite a lot of publicity when the Employment Tribunal delivers its judgment. In simple terms, the case surrounds the issue of whether taxi drivers using the Uber brand are genuinely self employed or fall into the category of “worker”. If self-employed, their benefits and protection are non-existent whereas if they are found to be workers, whilst they won’t have the same degree of protection as “employees” they will have the right to certain benefits such as the National Living and Minimum Wage, 4.6 weeks’ paid leave per annum and the right not to suffer discrimination.The issue is notoriously difficult to deal with given the absence of unequivocal legal definitions of “employee” “worker” and “self-employed individual” leaving lawyers to apply a series of various tests aimed at establishing a person’s employment status.The first issue the employment tribunal will try to address is whether the individuals undertake under their contracts to personally perform work or services?It will then have to establish whether they are providing their services to Uber in such a way that they are operating as a business and providing services to Uber as their customer or whether they have been effectively recruited by Uber to work as an integral part of its business.It is likely that the tribunal will look at issues such as whether drivers are able to substitute their own services by using someone else where they are not available, what degree of control (if any) Uber has over them, how integrated they are into Uber’s business, what control Uber has over drivers requirements to be available to work, what financial risk the drivers take if there is insufficient work, payment arrangements and the extent to which drivers are free to work for other similar organisations.Workers are basically those who cannot show that they are employees of an organisation but are not truly operating as an independent business providing services to a customer facing the usual risks and freedoms that go with being in business for yourself. Instead they fall somewhere between the two with watered down protections to those of an employee. It is worthwhile noting that the case is being pursued by only 19 out of 30,000 drivers which may be an indication of how the majority actually view their working relationship with Uber.