Uber drivers defined as “workers” in UK

By 25 February, 2021 No Comments

The recent UK case of Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents) [2021] UKSC 5 is being hailed as a landmark case for the rights gig workers and could have a follow on effect in Australia.

The Supreme Court of the UK found that the Uber drivers were “workers” for the purpose of the Employment Rights Act of 1996 (UK), which provides a right to the UK’s national minimum wage, paid leave and rest breaks and protection against unlawful discrimination.

In coming to their decision the Court identified five main factors to support the classification of workers:

  1. Uber sets the fare and drivers cannot negotiate with the customer.
  2. The contractual terms are imposed on the drivers.
  3. The choice to accept or decline trips is restricted by penalties for refusing or cancelling too many trips.
  4. Uber exercises control over how the service is provided with the ratings system.
  5. Uber restricts the direct communication between the driver and the customer.

Additionally, the Court found that drivers began working for Uber as soon as the driver was logged in and ready and willing to accept trips.

Whilst Australian courts will not be bound by this decision, it is likely that the decision will be read closely should the issue of whether a gig worker is an employee or an independent contractor be heard in the High Court or Federal Court.

The proper classification and rights of gig workers also continues to be a major talking point in the Morrison Government’s Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 and this decision will no doubt have a role to play in further debate about this issue.

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