Pensions implications of the Uber judgment

24th February 2021

In employment law, workers are classified in one of three categories: “self-employed”; “employees” or the hybrid category of “workers”. Workers are not full-blown employees but are given more protection than the self-employed.

The Uber judgment

The Judgment in Uber BV and others v Aslam and others opens with the statement that new ways of working organised through digital platforms pose pressing questions about the employment status of the people who do the work involved.

The key question on Uber’s appeal to the Supreme Court was whether an Employment Tribunal was entitled to find that drivers whose work is arranged through Uber’s smartphone application work for Uber  were “workers” and therefore qualify for the national minimum wage, paid annual leave and other workers’ rights. Alternatively, as Uber contended, the drivers do not have these rights because they work for themselves as independent contractors, performing services under contracts made with passengers through Uber as their booking agent.

However, the Supreme Court panel of six Judges unanimously concluded that the drivers were workers because of Uber’s level of control over them. It was also decided that the drivers were working when logged into the Uber app within the territory which they were licensed to operate and ready and willing to accept trips, as opposed to only when driving passengers to their destination.

For more details of the case and its implications see our article on workers’ rights.

The case will now be referred back to the Employment Tribunal to determine the merits of the claim and how to compensate the drivers.

Does the Judgment confer pensions rights?

The Judgment does not explicitly mention pensions rights. However, the definitions of “worker” and “contract of employment” under the Employment Rights Act 1996 are broadly the same as under the automatic enrolment legislation namely the Pensions Act 2008.

What are the wider ramifications of the Judgment?

Uber and other gig economy digital platforms have been fighting off efforts around the world by labour rights groups to classify their drivers as anything other than self-employed, with mixed success and this is the latest blow. Although the Supreme Court Judgment initially affects only the drivers who brought the case, it may set a precedent for many thousands of Uber drivers across the UK. It is not clear exactly how many at this stage because Uber has made changes to its business model in recent years and argues that drivers working under that model will not be affected by the Judgment.

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