Thousands of employees as well as companies in many sectors stand to be affected by the outcome of the recent six day employment tribunal hearing involving two claims from Uber drivers who are battling with the transport technology giant to prove their employment status. The drivers have brought group claims alleging that Uber has failed to pay them for annual leave or ensured they received the national minimum wage, payments which can only be claimed by those classed as workers or employees. Uber claim that in actual fact these individuals are genuinely self employed and therefore there is no legal right to receive the pay claimed in this test case.
Factors a tribunal will take into account when deciding on the status of an individual include whether they are able to set their own rate of pay, if they are permitted to carry out work for other employers, how much control they have over the work they are asked to do, whether their employer supervises their work and the extent to which they are incorporated into the business. In this particular case the tribunal is likely to focus on whether Uber does exert a degree of control over the claimants to the extent they have claimed, including a penalty if they refuse three jobs in a row.
A rise in the number of companies utilising the services of individuals who are not paid as “workers” but rather as individuals in business on their own account will make the tribunal’s judgement particularly pertinent and is likely to have widespread ramifications. It is therefore very important for employers to carefully consider the actual status of those working for them, as the tribunal will look behind the written terms of a contract to determine the reality of the situation. Companies who fear they may have misclassified workers could have underpaid them for a number of years and face a substantial bill as a result. All of this means that the decision of the central London employment tribunal is likely to be the employment law case of the year.