The tale of driver or worker status in the modern world began in 2016. Two Uber drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Asleem, took Uber to an employment tribunal on behalf of a group of drivers. Uber treated these drivers as self-employed, but they wanted to be classified as workers. They were successful.

Uber’s appeal against the tribunal’s decision was dismissed. Undeterred, Uber took it a step further, appealing at the Court of Appeal - dismissed again - and then most recently at the highest court in the land: The Supreme Court.

A landmark moment. Despite the Supreme Court finding in the drivers’ favour, Uber was reluctant to admit defeat.

After some time, Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi made a public statement that: “Drivers would receive holiday pay, pension contributions and the National Living Wage.”

This would seem to be similar to the ‘employment plus’ package offered by Hermes (in partnership with the GMB).

Recently, two Addison Lee drivers took the private hire behemoth to an employment tribunal. Just like the Uber tribunal, the drivers wanted to be classified as workers. They won. Addison Lee appealed the decision which was dismissed immediately. The judge cited Uber’s Supreme Court failure as evidence of the pointlessness of taking their appeal further.

WHO’S NEXT? Despite the sophisticated technology of companies in this space, most gig economy companies engage drivers or workers in a similar way. That means that more drivers from companies, such as Uber and Addison Lee, will likely come forward. Addison Lee’s appeal got shut down a hell of a lot quicker than Uber’s did. Does this mean the next company’s appeal won’t be given the light of day?

DRIVERS CAN GET A LOT OF MONEY! (if they want to take Uber on in the courts) London firm Keller Lenkner, which represents over 9,000 Uber drivers, believes they can realistically get up to £12,000 for each driver.

Law firm Leigh Day, which represents more than 100 Addison Lee drivers, believes thousands of drivers could be entitled to tens of thousands of pounds.

The victories of the Uber and Addison Lee drivers are moral, 24

not financial. Their achievements are impressive, but compensation will only be given if drivers take action to bring a claim.

UBER DIDN’T ACTUALLY LISTEN, AND NO ONE CAN REALLY MAKE THEM The most significant part of The Supreme Court’s ruling was absent from Uber’s most recent announcement. Lord Leggatt’s judgment outlined that ‘working time’ wasn’t limited to trips only, as Uber has argued, but any time the driver is logged into the app and ready to accept trips.

Boss of the TUC union body, Frances O’Grady, accused Uber of ‘cherry-picking’ from the ruling, which said Uber should consider its drivers as workers from the time they logged onto the app.

I think O’Grady is right. Uber chose to ignore part of the judgement, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to make them listen.

SOME PUNDITS BELIEVE NOTHING WILL ACTUALLY CHANGE Most experts believe that some businesses and drivers will take notice, and there may be an increase in claims. However, every employment case is ultimately decided on its own merit.

In fact, gig economy companies will likely claim that they aren’t Uber and will accuse courts of unfair treatment if their outcome is similar. On paper, two gig economy businesses are never exactly the same, even if drivers or users obtain jobs in the same way.

The judgement essentially tells other companies how to avoid meeting the same fate as Uber. We are likely to see further skirting around the rules but in a more sophisticated way.

In terms of companies having to pay holiday, pension contributions and National Living Wage, they may not even bear the brunt of these added costs. These will likely be passed on to the customers. When New York City’s minimum wage law came into effect in 2019, Uber simply raised its prices in the city to remain profitable.

Additionally, with the classification of ‘worker’, Uber and Addison Lee drivers are not entitled to sick pay.

DOES HMRC NEED TO SHOW ITS TEETH Aside from the compensation drivers are owed, it is time for HMRC to take on the challenge of a lifetime. If no action is taken, HMRC risks losing all credibility and will be seen as focusing on squeezing the little guy instead of going after the real crooks. If HMRC can get Uber to cough up, then Uber drivers will have more confidence claiming against the tech giant.


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