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Ask The Legal Expert - Does the Uber Ruling Mean My Business Will Have to Change?

View profile for Catherine Almeida
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"I run a cleaning company in South Wales using scores of self-employed workers. The business model works for me, and my team members like having the flexibility to fit their hours in around childcare and other commitments. Will the Uber case force me to change the way we work?"

All company owners who employ freelance staff or gig workers should look carefully at the Uber case and ask themselves if, in fact, the relationship between boss-and-workers is one that disadvantages the workers to the benefit of the company owner. In the case of Uber The Supreme Court handed down a judgment that Uber drivers were ‘workers’ within the definition of the Employment Rights Act 1996, National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and Working Time Regulations 1998. 

And while short term contracts/freelance work as opposed to permanent contracts offer working flexibility, with Uber drivers being able to work where and when they chose, this working arrangement was one-sided. Uber drivers were classed as self-employed, so were not eligible for holiday and sick pay. The employer, however, benefited from an array of legal exemptions and a lack of requirements. 

The case in question found that Uber drivers’ employment contracts did not match the reality of the working relationship between gig-worker and employer. This is because, among other things, Uber set the fare, dictating how much drivers could earn, they set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them, the request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides and Uber monitors a driver's service and can eventually terminate the relationship if this does not improve. As you can see, the crux of the matter is how much control do you have over your workers’ daily routine and the way they operate for you in practice – regardless of the wording of the employment contract in place.

This landmark case is likely to open the floodgates for Employment Law claims, as many gig-workers will now find they are eligible for holiday pay, sick pay, national minimum wage and rest breaks.

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This question is based on a hypothetical situation.