Sandir July Photo: Skermgreep
A recent incident on Uber drivers and their employment status in the UK has promised to be a game changer, says labor law expert Sandir July.
In a recent case, the British Supreme Court was asked to determine if an Uber driver (plaintiff) was an employee of UberBV. If the answer is yes, the employee is entitled to the National Minimum Wage Act.
The Supreme Court ruled on February 19, 2021.
There are basically three parties involved in this relationship. Dutch company Uber BV; London-based Uber BV subsidiary Uber London Ltd; and driver.
In the service contract between Uber and the driver, the driver is referred to as an independent contractor rather than an employee.
The Supreme Court said that the question of whether an Uber driver is a Uber worker or employee (in the sense of a law designed to protect employees) is a normal contract on terms of agreement between the parties. We have determined that it will not be determined by applying the principles of law.
These contractual terms were inserted (by Uber) with the aim of excluding the operation of employment law.
The Supreme Court investigated the relationship between Uber BV and the driver and found Uber BV to be an employer because of the degree of control Uber exercised over the driver.
How did the court decide?
In reaching the conclusion, the court considered some of the following factors:
1. The driver’s license for the private car was the name of Uber London.
2. The passenger contacts Uber for transportation, and then Uber encourages the driver to carry the passenger by ferry.
3. Fares are determined by Uber.
4. Drivers receive Uber training on Uber’s premises.
5. Drivers are subject to performance standards set by Uber.And
6. There is no direct contact between the passenger and the driver.
In our view, this decision may be made by other courts in other jurisdictions. The implications of this decision extend not only to Uber, but to companies that run businesses similar to Uber.
There is no doubt that it will be a game changer not only for Uber, but also for other companies that have owner drivers.
A similar issue was raised in the Labor Court. The court was forced to address the relationship between Uber BV and the driver because it was unable to bring Uber BV into the proceedings. The Labor Court has come to the conclusion that the drivers have signed a contract with Uber BV and their allegations may be contrary to Uber BV.
According to the Labor Court, there was no contract between Uber SA and the driver, so the commissioner should have upheld the jurisdiction challenge raised by Uber SA.
Sandile July is a director and labor law specialist at Werksmans Attorneys. The expressed views are his own.
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