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Court of Appeal judgment goes against Uber

Updated: Feb 16

There's been a spate of recent court cases brought by people operating in what's become known as the 'gig economy' including Pimlico Plumbers, CitySprint, Addison Lee, Deliveroo and Hermes. Now the issue has taken another turn at the Court of Appeal.

In 2016, two Uber drivers brought a case to an Employment Tribunal, claiming that they were workers rather than self-employed and therefore were entitled to workers’ rights including breaks, the Minimum Wage and holiday pay.

The Employment Tribunal agreed with them, as did an Employment Appeal Tribunal a year later. The Court of Appeal has now handed Uber its third legal defeat.

The Court described the employment contracts Uber used as “complex and artificial”, said that there was a “high degree of fiction in the wording”, that they “did not correspond with reality” and could be disregarded.

The Court of Appeal’s decision was not unanimous, however; one judge dissented and Uber has been given permission to take their case to the Supreme Court, so from the point of view of employers, the matter has been delayed, rather than decided.

The Court of Appeal’s judgment may give encouragement to other claimants to bring cases that may serve to further define the way that employment status and the gig economy interact. Employers operating in the gig economy should therefore be prepared for further claims.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Court’s decision was based a particular set of facts and won’t apply to all gig-economy employment. Trying to apply the Uber judgment to other companies and cases will be ineffective.

rradar Employment Solicitor Nkolika Oraka comments:

"The key thing for employers is to ensure that any paperwork/written agreements in place matches up to the reality of the working situation. As can be clearly evidenced from the numerous cases on this, it is not enough to simply refer to someone as self-employed or to stick that tag on something, they have to be self-employed in all senses of the word."


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