Über decision 'significant for other gig workers' says Labour Relations Agency

Supreme Court justices have ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as workers and not ‘self-employed independent contractors’
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has described a Supreme Court judgment affecting Über drivers as 'a landmark decision'.

The justices ruled that Über drivers are ‘workers' and not – as argued by Über – ‘self-employed independent contractors'.

This is significant because exact employment status determines the employment rights and entitlements individuals have, such as the right to be paid National Minimum Wage and entitlement to paid holidays.

The Supreme Court's 18,500-word ruling was delivered by one justice, Lord Leggatt - all the other judges on the panel said they agreed with his conclusions.

Two drivers - Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar - had made employment tribunal claims. Both were licensed to drive private hire vehicles in London.

Lord Leggatt said at the time of the 2016 employment tribunal hearing, there were about 30,000 Uber drivers operating in the London area and 40,000 in the UK, including Northern Ireland.

LRA director of employment relations services Mark McAllister said: “This decision is not only important for Über drivers in Northern Ireland, it means other, so-called ‘gig workers' may also be incorrectly classified as self-employed as opposed to workers, and so should check their employment status too.

“The judgment means courts and tribunals will consider what actually happens in practice, not just how someone's employment status is described in their contract.

“The Labour Relations Agency can provide information and advice on how employment status is determined, but if an individual decides to challenge their employment status, the tribunals and courts will make the final decision,” he added.

Sarah Cochrane, senior associate in the employment team at Carson McDowell in Belfast, said: “The decision serves as a further reminder to companies, and particularly those operating within the gig economy, that the label placed on individuals at the outset of a relationship will have little bearing if it does not reflect what is happening on the ground.”

She added: “Genuine autonomy and control over one's own work are key indicators of self-employed status and if affording such independence is not practicable, employers need to give serious consideration to whether it is appropriate to engage workers or indeed employees.”

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