Self-employed or employed? Uber legal action outcome may lead to further claims

News Article

Two drivers from well-known online cab service, Uber, have taken the company to a London Employment Tribunal, over claims that the firm is acting unlawfully by not offering holiday and sick pay to its drivers.

This important test case hinges on whether the drivers are considered workers or if they are self-employed as Uber claims – two different classifications of employment that are subject to different rules and rights.

Under UK employment law, employees are entitled to holiday pay, are protected from unlawful deductions from their pay, receive minimum national wage and may be entitled to sick pay.

These same rights are not afforded to self-employed contractors, who benefit from a more flexible work arrangement.

Uber maintains that all of its drivers are classified as self-employed and this case may challenge whether they are correct.

The outcome of this case will determine the likelihood of another 17 claims being brought against the company from drivers waiting in the wings.

More importantly, it may set a precedent for additional cases to be brought against other employers who use self-employed people within their operations.

Fast food courier service, Deliveroo, has already reacted to the case by implementing a number of changes to its employment contract to avoid similar cases being brought against them and has even attempted to insert a clause which threatens that if a contractor attempts a legal challenge, hey will be obliged to pay not only their own legal fees but Deliveroo’s legal costs too.

Charlotte Woolven Brown, an employment law expert with Palmers, said: “Self-employed contract work suits many people because it provides flexible working, allowing individuals to choose when they work and how much they agree to take on, so that they can fit it around family or other commitments. “The problem has arisen because certain unscrupulous companies have tried to impose a minimum number of hours, or set shifts which is contrary to the definition of a self-employed contract.

“The suggestion of trying to impose double legal costs on any workers who decide to challenge their contracts is likely to be unenforceable, as the courts and Tribunals do not look favourably on clauses that seek to prevent access to justice.

“Any self-employed contractor who feels that they are being unfairly dealt with, should seek legal advice without delay.”

For more information on Palmers’ employment law services, please contact us.