Uber BV and Ors v Aslam and Ors [2021] UKSC 5 – To be workers or not to be workers?

This landmark case reached to the highest court in the United Kingdom to determine once and fall all the employment status of Uber drivers in the United Kingdom. This case, covered largely by the media, started in the Employment Tribunal in 2016 and following multiple appeals, was finally decided in the Supreme Court on 29 February 2021.

Leaving the intricate details of the matter to the more vested reader, the primary argument on behalf of the drivers was that they were employed by UBER and thus should be provided with the appropriate benefits including being paid in line with national minimum wage, having statutory paid leave including sick leave.

A successful claim would put tremendous responsibility on Uber which is likely to be one of the reasons why Uber held the position that the drivers were independent contractors and should not be considered as employees. The driving force behind their stance was that the were two simultaneous contracts that they believed shielded them from the responsibility of being an employer. The Supreme Court would later use this in their decision against Uber as the drivers were not afforded the right to amend the contract thus supporting the notion they were workers instead of independent contractors.

The primary contract was between Uber and its driver, and the latter being between the driver and their passenger. Uber strongly averred that these written agreements put the drivers in a position of the customer to Uber as they would pay Uber a ‘service fee’ in exchange for access to the services on Uber’s smartphone app. Uber’s stance remained that they provided a service, by way of the app, to the drivers and the drivers worked for the passengers who paid their wages effectively.

The courts were united on their decision that Uber drivers were to be classed as workers and thus receive the benefits. Ultimately, the Supreme Court dismissed Uber’s appeal and particularly highlighted the following points in their decision. The primary factor the Supreme Court relied upon was Uber’s control of their drivers, especially that they control whether or not a driver can accept a journey, the fares for each journey, where the drivers can work and how much the drivers can communicate with their passengers.

This case demonstrated that the level of control a company has over another party is a relevant factor in determining employment status and should be given the appropriate weight when deciding future cases. This is likely to bring about a change in many contracts held by similar businesses with their independent contractors.

For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email admin@audleychaucer.com or visit our Linkedin page.

Larissa Bourgi

This information was correct at 10 November 2021


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