The Lady Doth Protest Too Much? – Employment Status Following The Uber Decision

Author:Ms Louise O'Byrne
Profession:Arthur Cox
 
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INTRODUCTION

Uber markets itself as "a location-based app that makes hiring an on-demand private driver...easy." Uber claims that "for drivers, Uber provides exceptional pay while allowing you to be your own boss and pick your own hours. Take on fares whenever you wish (work as little or as much as you want) while meeting people in your city from all walks of life."

The Employment Tribunal in London, when tasked with making a decision on the employment status of Uber drivers, concluded that Uber drivers are workers for the purposes of the UK's Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The Tribunal published the detailed reasons, running to some 40 pages, for its reserved judgment on 28 October 2016.

THE FACTS

There are 30,000 Uber drivers operating in the London area and 40,000 in the UK as a whole. The underlying claims related to unlawful deductions from wages (through an alleged failure to pay the national minimum wage) and in respect of a failure to provide paid leave.

The Tribunal analysed Uber's business model and forensically assessed the terms between Uber and the driver, including a welcome packet used for 'onboarding' new drivers. The Tribunal went on to make the following findings of fact:

Drivers are not required to make any commitment to work. However, when a driver signs into the app, this usually signals that they are coming 'on-duty' and available for work. Drivers supply their own vehicles and are responsible for all running costs, including the licence costs. Passengers book trips through the Uber app. On receipt of a passenger request, the app locates a driver logged into the app. The selected driver has 10 seconds to accept the booking through the app, failing which Uber assumes that they are unavailable and locates another driver. If a driver fails to accept a series of bookings, this can result in losing his account status. Acceptance statistics are recorded and Uber warns "you should accept at least 80% of trip requests to retain account status." Once a driver accepts a booking, Uber places the driver and passenger in direct contact, through the app. The driver is not made aware of the destination until collecting the passenger. The app provides detailed directions to the destination and the driver is expected to follow those directions unless the passenger stipulates a different route. At the end of the trip, Uber's servers calculate a recommended...

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