As you will surely be aware by now, Uber is a smartphone ‘app’ that uses GPS to match passengers with taxi drivers and, hey presto, you’ve got a lift home!
Uber’s business model works on the basis that its so-called ‘partner-drivers’ are all self-employed. As a result, they don’t currently receive either the national minimum wage or paid holiday. Uber have also argued that far from being a taxi firm themselves, they are simply and IT business providing an online platform for the benefit of taxi drivers and their potential passengers. In October 2016, an Employment Tribunal found that despite protestations to the contrary, Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and, as a result, enjoy workers’ rights. In the last few weeks, we have discovered that Uber’s appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal has failed. The EAT concluded that the Employment Tribunal was entitled to look behind the relationship that Uber’s contracts purported to create and consider what was happening in reality. As things stand, the ET and EAT have concluded that Uber drivers are not in business on their own account, contracting directly with their passengers. Instead, Uber exercises a degree of control over its drivers that is inconsistent with self-employment and much more consistent with ‘worker’ status.
So far as we can tell, Uber are unwilling to take the EAT’s decision lying down. Its implications for their ‘gig economy’ business model are simply too great. As a result, we understand that Uber are attempting to take their case straight to the Supreme Court, leapfrogging the Court of Appeal. We will have to wait and see whether it’s ‘third time lucky’ for Uber. In the meantime, we can only presume that they will be devising contingency plans for how they can accommodate their drivers’ worker status, if these repeated appeals do not succeed.