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Supreme Court unanimously dismisses Uber worker status appeal


United Kingdom

Read update from our Employment law team on the latest decision on the Uber worker status case.

The Supreme Court has just provided an oral summary of its judgment in the Uber worker status test claim.

Key points:  
1.         The Court upheld the earlier court decisions which looked at the reality of the working relationship between Uber and the drivers and rejected Uber's argument that it was simply a technology platform acting as a "booking agent" for the drivers by putting them in touch with passengers.  
2.         It took a purposive interpretation of the legislation regarding the protection of vulnerable workers, finding that the Uber drivers were in a relationship of subordination and dependency to Uber. In reaching this conclusion it discarded the contractual arrangements in place and focused heavily on the truth of the relationship. 
3.         In its oral summary it highlighted five factors, including that Uber dictates the fare, imposes the terms between the driver and passenger, restricts drivers' choice over whether to accept or reject a job, exercises significant control over service delivery through the passenger rating system and restricts drivers from establishing an independent commercial relationship with passengers beyond the ride. 
4.         While the above factors may be specific to Uber's operating model, the approach taken by the Supreme Court in this case is likely to embolden other courts to look beyond the contractual arrangements to protect to individuals perceived as economically vulnerable.
5.         In a further body blow to Uber and its operating model, the Supreme Court concluded that drivers are 'working' when they log onto the app and are ready and willing to accept bookings (i.e. when they are "on stand-by") and this should be treated as paid working time. Worker rights including the right to national minimum wage and paid leave accrual will therefore apply during these periods as well as when drivers are completing rides.
This case will have significant implications not only for Uber but other atypical working arrangements (including freelancer and consultancy arrangements).   The detailed judgment has just been published.  For more information regarding the case and its implications, please do contact any member of the team.

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