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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.

Aslam 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.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.