On 19 February 2021, the United Kingdom Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Uber and unanimously upheld a 2016 employment tribunal decision that the ride-booking company's drivers are workers and not independent contractors.
In upholding the tribunal decision, the Court determined five factors weighed against Uber's portrayal of the drivers as independent contractors:
- The remuneration paid to drivers for work is fixed by Uber. The drivers have no say in it (other than by choosing when and how much to work).
- Uber dictates the contractual terms on which drivers perform their services. Drivers are required to accept Uber's standard form of written agreement, and the terms on which they transport passengers are also imposed by Uber.
- Although drivers can choose when and where to work, once a driver has logged onto the Uber app, a driver's choice about whether to accept requests for rides is limited by Uber. Uber also monitors the driver's rate of acceptance (and cancellation) of trip requests.
- Uber exercises a significant degree of control over the way drivers deliver their services.
- Uber restricts communication between passengers and drivers to the minimum necessary to perform a particular trip. Uber also takes steps to prevent drivers from establishing any relationship with a passenger capable of extending beyond an individual ride.
Another key issue in the Court's decision recognized that the terms in the agreement between the parties does not determine employment or worker status. In this case, the contract labeled the drivers as "self-employed" and described Uber's operations, including its app, in ways that would support a finding of self-employment. However, the English courts, including the Supreme Court, consistently found the reality of how the relationship and the driver app operated very different from the terms of the contract and that the drivers were "workers."
Jyme Mariani, Esq., is Managing Editor of Payroll Information Resources for the American Payroll Association