Uber drivers ‘are workers – even while waiting for fares’
Uber drivers should be classified as workers even when they are waiting to accept new fares.
That was the ruling of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the highly publicised case involving Uber London Ltd and several of its drivers.
The tribunal heard that Uber paid drivers weekly, based on the fares charged for trips undertaken, less a service fee for the use of its booking app.
Uber argued that it was merely acting as an agent and that drivers entered into binding agreements with passengers to provide them with transportation services.
The Employment Tribunal ruled against Uber. It concluded that any driver who had the app switched on and was within the territory in which he was authorised to work, and was willing to accept assignments, was working for Uber under a "worker" contract.
It held that any supposed contract between driver and passenger was a pure fiction, bearing no relation to the real dealings and relationships between the parties.
It also rejected Uber's submission that drivers were to be treated as engaged on "time work" and held that the default position had to apply: a driver was to be treated as performing "unmeasured work," which would include time spent in between accepting assignments.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld those decisions. It held that the tribunal had been entitled to find that drivers assumed an obligation of "being available" to Uber when they were in the territory and had the app switched on.
The Working Time Regulations defined "working time" as any period when the worker was "working, at his employer's disposal and carrying out his activity or duties".
On that basis, it was not wrong to hold that a driver would be a worker engaged on working time when in the territory with the app switched on, and ready and willing to accept trips.
Please contact Jackie Cuneen if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.