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Uber tribunal case has employment lawyers "glued"

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ELAS consultant Emma O'Leary discusses the cab-hailing firm's ongoing tribunal case

The Uber tribunal case has employment lawyers “glued,” according to ELAS consultant and employment law specialist Emma O'Leary.

Cab-hailing app Uber is facing a legal challenge from drivers who say the firm is acting unlawfully by not offering holiday and sick pay.

O'Leary described employment status as the “greyest area” of employment law. “Is someone self employed or are they really an employee, or a worker?” she said. “Even where both parties believe and want to have a self employed relationship, an Employment Tribunal and HMRC see it differently. Their decisions can have far reaching implications for the employee's rights and tax liabilities, as well as opening the flood gates for other similar claims against companies operating this type of arrangement.

"This is why the Uber case has employment lawyers glued. The drivers are claiming that they are workers because the terms and conditions of the arrangement means that Uber has such a degree of control over them that they cannot be said to be self employed, and therefore they are entitled to national minimum wage, holiday pay etc.”

O'Leary highlighted that the drivers are not arguing that they are employees, who would have increased rights above those of a worker. “Uber will seek to argue that they simply put the drivers in touch with customers but the drivers are their own boss,” she said. “They will say that they are simply a technology company who do not provide the services themselves - so the nature of that will be analysed too.

"Such is the difficulty with employment status claims. They require scrutiny of all the facts and circumstances and questions need to be asked, including: Do they have to do the work themselves? Can someone tell them at any time what to do, where to carry out the work or when and how to do it? Can they work a set amount of hours?”

O’Leary said that if the answer is yes to any of these questions then this might be indicative of an employee or worker status. Someone is more likely to be classed as self employed if they provide the main items of equipment they need to do their job, agree to do a job for a fixed price regardless of how long the job may take, or if they regularly work for a number of different people.

"However this case goes, rest assured it will have a huge impact on both parties and set an important employment law precedent," she added.