• Contact Us

Uber's Contractual Arrangements Deemed "Convoluted, Complex and Artificial"

on Friday, 21 December 2018.

It's third time unlucky for Uber, as the Court of Appeal hold that their drivers have worker status.

Self-Employed Vs Worker Status

The crux of the case is whether Uber drivers are workers (and so have rights to holiday pay and national minimum wage), or whether they are self-employed.

The drivers argued that they are not self-employed as it is Uber who contracts with the passengers to provide driving services, which the drivers then perform for Uber. Conversely, Uber argued it only acts as an intermediary, providing booking and payment services, and the drivers drive the passengers as independent contractors. The written contractual terms between Uber and their drivers say the drivers are self-employed.

After losing its appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Uber went to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal determined that the written contract did not reflect the reality of the relationships between Uber and its drivers, and should be disregarded.

It advocated that tribunals take a “realistic and worldly-wise” and a “sensible and robust” approach to the determination of what the true position is in cases such as this, especially where the contractual terms are standard and non-negotiable and where the parties are in an unequal bargaining position.

In a stinging rebuke to the contractual language used by Uber, the Court of Appeal likened its practices to a sham, describing them as: 

"convoluted, complex and artificial contractual arrangements, no doubt formulated by a battery of lawyers, unilaterally drawn up and dictated by Uber to tens of thousands of drivers and passengers, not one of whom is in a position to correct or otherwise resist the contractual language."

The Court was not unanimous, however. Lord Justice Underhill gave a dissenting judgment and argued that there was no inconsistency between Uber's written terms and the working arrangements: those arrangements were not essentially different from those commonly applying where taxi and minicab owner-drivers are booked through an intermediary.

The majority of the Court also held that drivers are working the entire time they have the Uber app switched on and are ready and available for work in the territory they are permitted to work in, regardless of whether or not they were on a trip.

What Next?

Uber has been given permission to appeal, so we wait to see what the Supreme Court will make of the case.

The government is also in the process of proposing legislation in response to the Taylor Review which made wide ranging recommendations on how to tackle the employment rights issues posed by the gig economy.

For further information, please contact Helen Clayton in our Employment Law team on 0117 314 5457.