This appeal concerns the employment status of private hire vehicle drivers who provide their services through the Uber smartphone application (the "Uber app"). The main question raised is whether an Uber driver is a "worker" for the purposes of employment legislation which gives "workers" rights to be paid at least the national minimum wage, to receive annual paid leave and to benefit from certain other protections. The Supreme Court also considers the related question of what time counts, if drivers are "workers", as working time for the purpose of the relevant rights.
Uber BV is a Dutch company which owns the technology behind the Uber app. Uber London Ltd is a UK subsidiary licensed to operate private hire vehicles in London. The claimants, Mr Aslam and Mr Farrar, at the relevant times were licensed to drive private hire vehicles in London and did so using the Uber app. Their claim was brought in the employment tribunal as a test case to establish their employment status. At the time of the tribunal hearing in 2016, the number of Uber drivers operating in the UK was estimated to be around 40,000, of whom around 30,000 were operating in the London area.
The definition of a "worker" in section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and other relevant legislation includes anyone employed under a contract of employment but also extends to some individuals who are self-employed. In particular, the definition includes an individual who works under a contract "whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual".
The employment tribunal found that Mr Aslam and Mr Farrar satisfied this test and worked under worker’s contracts for Uber London. The Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal (by a majority) dismissed Uber’s appeals.