As market disruptors, Twelve Tabulae recognise the importance of using innovative methods to deliver traditional services in this unique global landscape. The rise of new working models continue to challenge the traditional notions of the legal definition of being a ‘worker’. This legal challenge has brought change by giving the courts increased purview to update this definition and afford rights to those in less traditional roles.
On 19 February 2021, the Supreme Court assessed whether the role of the modern-day Uber driver could fit within the interpretation of the term ‘worker’ under British law. The case of Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents)  UKSC 5 has provided a newfound departure from the previous understanding of the term ‘worker’.
Unanimously, Lord’s Leggatt, Reed, Hodge, Sales, Hamblen and Lady Arden affirmed the Employment Tribunal’s decision.
The judgment, given by Lord Leggatt, is summarised below.
The appellants ‘Uber BV’, ‘Uber London Ltd’ and ‘Uber Britannia Ltd’ (referred collectively as ‘Uber’) are companies associated with the well-known Uber application, which allows customers to request a private hire service which is given by a driver provided by Uber. The claimants in the Employment Tribunal trial and thus, respondents to this appeal, were a range of current and previous Uber drivers.
The paramount issue for the Supreme Court to consider was whether they agreed with the Employment Tribunal that “for the purposes of the statutory definition, the claimants are to be regarded as working under contracts with Uber London whereby they undertook to perform services for Uber London” . This would automatically render them ‘workers’ under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, Working Time Regulations Act 1998 and Employment Rights Act 1996.
Uber purported that the claimants were not working under contracts. Based on the decision in Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher  UKSC 41, Uber submitted that since there was “no inconsistency between the written agreements between Uber, drivers and passengers and how that tripartite relationship actually operated in practice” , there was no basis for departing from the written agreements when analysing whether drivers worked under contracts.
This argument was rejected by the Supreme Court, who suggested the task for tribunals and courts in assessing whether people worked under contracts was one of statutory interpretation, rather than contractual interpretation .
Following this analogy, the court assessed the status of the claimants, based on the facts of the case, the intention of the statutes and the importance of subordination and dependence in the working relationship .
The Supreme Court found the drivers to be working under contracts for Uber and thus, their role fell within the statutory interpretation of ‘workers’ because:
Lord Leggatt then continued his analysis by making a direct comparison between Uber’s operation and relationship with drivers, and those operating as booking agents and minicab drivers [103-118]. The court decided these situations could not be regarded as the same as those of Uber and their drivers.
Finally, Lord Leggatt found that for the purposes of the Working Times and National Minimum Wage Regulations, the Employment Tribunal’s conclusions were also acceptable, rendering Uber drivers’ operations as suitable for these statutory protections.