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APSCo and REC respond to Uber case ruling

Responding to the news that Uber drivers have won the right to be classed as workers rather than self-employed, Tania Bowers, general counsel at The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said: 

“This is a landmark case - while Uber classed its drivers as independent self-employed contractors who had the choice of where and when they worked, this ruling, if not successfully appealed, means that the drivers will be entitled to the minimum wage, paid holidays and breaks. While not directly affecting the professional recruitment market, the ruling will have a significant impact on the ‘gig economy’ where individuals work for multiple employers day to day without having a fixed contract.

“While it is right and proper for workers’ rights to be protected, it is important that the distinction is made between lower paid and potentially vulnerable workers who need this type of protection and professional contractors and interims who do not need – or indeed want such protection.

“Recruitment firms have been responsibly supplying compliant agency workers and professional contractors to the employment market for decades before the phrase "gig economy" was coined and will continue to be an essential component of the flexible labour market. Nonetheless it is important that the recruitment sector does not get landed with the responsibility – and ensuing liability - for determining an individual’s employment status – as is planned by the proposed changes to IR35 legislation for workers in the public sector.  We believe there is a need for greater clarity and we support the Review of Modern Employment to be undertaken by RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor at the request of the Prime Minister.”

REC chief executive, Kevin Green, commented, “Uber has said it intends to appeal this employment tribunal ruling, so this case is far from over. It may take quite a while to get a definitive view as it is likely to end up in front of the Supreme Court.

“In the meantime, the government should provide greater clarity to employers and individuals about who is legitimately self-employed. HMRC has already said it is investigating Hermes, but we have no timescale for a decision on this and a number of other cases.

“UK consumers want to maintain the many the benefits that ‘gig economy’ platforms such as Uber provide. At the same time the people who provide the services for these tech companies should be fairly treated and rewarded.

“We expect the Taylor Review to explore innovative and creative thinking aimed at solving some of the challenges created by new ways of working and ‘gig economy’ business models. The REC is ready to contribute our expertise to that review.” 

Following the Uber tribunal case, it has been reported that Uber has misled its drivers by emailing them to say that the ruling only applies to the two employees that took the case to court. Holly Cudbill, employment solicitor at law firm Coffin Mew, states that these reports are inaccurate, saying,  "There has been a great deal of misleading information published about the recent decision in the Uber employment tribunal case, so it’s important to distinguish between what this case actually means and what the wider implications are.

"Firstly, the case technically only affects the individuals who brought the claim, not the 40,000 other individuals engaged by Uber.  In addition, judgements from the Employment Tribunal are not binding on other cases.  In other words, the suggestion that this is a landmark decision which will affect the hundreds of thousands of other people working under self-employed contracts is simply incorrect.

"What happened in the Uber case was that the Employment Tribunal analysed the facts of how the Claimants worked for Uber, considering well-established law relating to employment status and concluded that the individuals were in fact workers, rather than self-employed.  If most Uber drivers are engaged on similar contracts and work in a similar way, it is likely that another Employment Tribunal would also find that they are workers, but that is not guaranteed.

"One key element of the judgment that has not been widely reported is the fact that the Employment Tribunal said that nothing would prevent Uber from devising a business model that would ensure its drivers were not workers, it was simply that the current model failed to do that.

"Uber has confirmed that it will appeal the decision but, in any event, it and other companies operating in the so-called ‘gig economy’ are likely to be reviewing their contracts and working practices to ensure that this decision is not repeated."

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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