Hot Topic Getting Hotter — UK "Worker" Status Cases
We have previously written about the UK’s
“worker” status, an intermediate classification between an employee and a
self-employed contractor, which affords some of the benefits and protections of
employment (such as minimum wage and paid vacation). This remains a hot topic
for employment law in 2018, with two significant cases working their way
through the UK courts.
and others v Uber BV and others
Ride-hailing service Uber sits at the centre of
the worker classification debate in the UK, claiming their role is merely
providing technology to connect self-employed drivers with passengers. Beyond
the technology, the company allocates customers and dictates the price of the
service, a degree of control which enabled drivers to successfully argue at an
Employment Tribunal that they were workers, entitled to minimum wage and paid
annual leave. The UK Court of Appeal will hear the case at some point in 2018.
In a separate blow to Uber, Transport
for London (the body that oversees and regulates much of the capital’s
transport infrastructure) refused to reissue Uber’s private hire operator
licence in September of last year, citing a lack of corporate responsibility.
That appeal is also ongoing and Uber continues to operate pending the outcome. It
is not yet clear how any increased involvement and oversight of its drivers
that may be required under the terms of the licence might implicate their
classification as workers.
Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith
As one of Pimlico Plumber’s contractors, Smith
wore a uniform and drove a van branded with their logo, but was required to
provide his own tools and arrange his own insurance and taxes. An employment
tribunal found that he belonged in this middle “worker” category which fell
short of full employee status, but he was subject to too much de facto control
(notably, a limited opportunity to substitute work and a restrictive restraint
of trade if he ceased to work with Pimlico) to be deemed truly self-employed. It
bears noting that although Smith believed himself to be self-employed, that belief
did not impact his classification as a worker. Courts are looking at the
substance of the arrangement rather than the labels, or even beliefs, of the
parties. The UK Supreme Court heard the case in February 2018 and we are now
awaiting the judgment.