In a landmark ruling, Uber loses appeal against drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam who argued that they were employees of the taxi firm, as opposed to being self-employed, back in 2016.

Today, the Court of Appeal ruled that they are indeed employees, and should therefore be protected by and benefit from employment rights.

Uber loses appeal

Uber’s stance is that its drivers are self-employed, like traditional taxi drivers, and are therefore not entitled to holiday or sick pay, protection from unfair dismissal, redundancy payment or even national minimum wage.

The firm argues that it should be treated as an agency connecting drivers and passengers, allowing flexibility for drivers in terms of work hours and the jobs they take.

However, the Court’s ruling means that Uber drivers across the UK should be treated as employees and should receive all employee benefits and protections that come as part of the employee-employer relationship. This would improve job stability, pay and working hours hugely for those currently working as Uber drivers.

A particularly damning section from the conclusion of Uber v Aslam & others reads:

‘We agree that it is not real to regard Uber as working ‘for’ the drivers and that the only sensible interpretation is that the relationship is the other way around. Uber runs a transportation business. The drivers provide the skilled labour through which the organisation delivers its services and earns its profits.’

A win for all gig-economy workers

The ruling is a huge win for those working in the gig economy in a wider sense. Deliveroo, Addison Lee and Amazon are just a few that will most likely come under fire for their treatment of workers on the back of this ruling.

Another notable firm that has already had a similar case - and a similar loss - is Pimlico Plumbers. The plumber in question won his appeal, with the Supreme Court finding that he should’ve been classified as and received the benefits of an employee.

He was a long-serving worker, was required to wear a uniform, wasn’t permitted to work for rival plumbing firms and had his working hours and the jobs he accepted dictated to him, all of which are distinct indicators of an employer-employee relationship.

Court of Appeal statement

The Court of Appeal decision was made based on the following considerations:

  • The fact that Uber interviews and recruits drivers.
  • The fact that Uber controls the key information (in particular the passenger's surname, contact details and intended destination) and excludes the driver from it.
  • The fact that Uber requires drivers to accept trips and/or not to cancel trips, and enforces the requirement by logging off drivers who breach those requirements.
  • The fact that Uber sets the (default) route and the driver departs from it at his peril.
  • The fact that UBV fixes the fare and the driver cannot agree a higher sum with the passenger. (The supposed freedom to agree a lower fare is obviously nugatory.)
  • The fact that Uber imposes numerous conditions on drivers (such as the limited choice of acceptable vehicles), instructs drivers as to how to do their work and, in numerous ways, controls them in the performance of their duties.
  • The fact that Uber subjects drivers through the rating system to what amounts to a performance management/disciplinary procedure.
  • The fact that Uber determines issues about rebates, sometimes without even involving the driver whose remuneration is liable to be affected.
  • The guaranteed earnings schemes (albeit now discontinued).
  • The fact that Uber accepts the risk of loss which, if the drivers were genuinely in business on their own account, would fall upon them.
  • The fact that Uber handles complaints by passengers, including complaints about the driver.
  • The fact that Uber reserves the power to amend the drivers' terms unilaterally.’

Other workplace reform legislation that was launched yesterday is another big step towards improving workers' rights across the UK.

Read the full report here.