Taxi drivers case hailed as ground-breaking decision for employees

Wake Smith Solicitors 23 February 2021

A ground-breaking defeat in the Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that Uber’s drivers are not self-employed.

The 25 Uber workers who brought the case argued they were workers with rights and not independent, third party contractors.

The Supreme Court handed down its decision reaching the same conclusion as earlier courts – that they are workers.

Joan Pettingill, director of employment law and head of HR services at Wake Smith Solicitors, looks at the decision.

“This is a landmark decision by the Supreme Court. The ruling confirms Uber drivers’ rights to the minimum wage, annual leave and whistle blowing protection.

“This is significant, not just for businesses but for the wider gig economy and businesses trying to run flexible workforces.

“They key points in this case were determining a worker’s status involves statutory legislation as the starting point and not the written contract.  Questions of status will be determined by the reality of the working relationship not documentation. If the courts decide they are workers, it doesn’t matter what the contract terms say.

“The Uber drivers are workers from when they switch on their apps, and are available for work in their area, to the time when they switch their apps off at the end of the day, or for a break.

“The cost to Uber will be considerable.”

Thousands of Uber drivers are now entitled to claim minimum wage, including back-pay, with their minimum wage claims being based upon their entire working day, not just when they had a rider in their cabs. 

Up to two years’ back pay, potentially longer, or £25,000, whichever is the larger, can be claimed in an employment tribunal, and up to six years’ back pay can be claimed in the county court.

They can also claim 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year, and will have whistleblowing and similar rights. 

Unlike a similar French court decision last year, this judgment does not give them employee rights, such as the right to a redundancy payment or to claim unfair dismissal.

For further information about this topic and other recent developments will be covered in our upcoming free employment law update on 17 March.  For further advice on all employment law matters contact Joan Pettingill at Wake Smith Solicitors at [email protected] or call 0114 224 2087.

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