Uber loses its latest appeal in UK employment case

On the 19th December 2018, the Court of Appeal handed down their judgement in Uber v Aslam, Farrar & Ors, concerning the legal status of their drivers. Uber was challenged by two drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, who argued they should be entitled to worker’s rights.

Master of the rolls Sir Terence Etherton, along with Lord Justice Bean decided in favour of the drivers; a ruling that could affect tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy. A third judge, Lord Justice Underhill, dissented, leading to a 2-1 majority decision.

Uber was criticised for having “complex and artificial contractual arrangements”, which were no doubt “formulated by a battery of lawyers, unilaterally”. The court emphasised the “high degree of fiction” in the wording and the “idiosyncratic language” which resorted to “twisted language”. The point being that the language used did not accurately reflect “the real dealings and relationships” between the parties.

The court discussed the inequality of bargaining power between the company and the “tens of thousands of drivers and passengers” who have no power to “correct or otherwise resist the contractual language”.

Conversely, Underhill LJ found that the relationship argued by Uber was neither artificial nor unrealistic, but actually a well-recognised model in the private hire car business sector.

This case represents an important decision in protection those operating in the newly popular gig economy. The court referred to “The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices” published last year, which recommended the introduction of a new “dependent contractor” status.

The report can be found here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/627671/good-work-taylor-review-modern-working-practices-rg.pdf

Uber has confirmed that they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

 

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