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The gig economy: self-employed or workers?

In October 2016, Uber drivers won the right to be classed as workers as opposed to self-employed contractors. As such, the employment tribunal decided that these workers should receive the national minimum wage and paid leave.

The case

Uber operates a smartphone app through which customers order a taxi and pay the fare. It presents itself as a technology platform facilitating the provision of taxi services, but not the provider of the taxi service itself.

Their user agreement states that the contract for the taxi service is between the driver and the passenger and not directly connected with Uber.

The outcome

The Employment Tribunal decided that the drivers could not be classed as genuinely self-employed and instead should be classed as workers. This was due to Uber having a relatively large amount of control over what the drivers do, including requiring drivers to accept fares or face suspension. Uber also retains passenger details and deals with any complaints themselves.

This decision on Uber’s case reaffirms that tribunals always look behind the label that an employer puts on someone and will focus on the reality of the employment relationship.

If you engage with self-employed contractors, it is worth considering whether the nature of their working relationship with your organisation is classable as self-employed.

We can assist you in reviewing your employee statuses to mitigate your risk of facing tribunals. Contact our employment lawyers on 01332 340 211.

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