Somewhere Uber The Rainbow...But No Pot O’Gold At The End

By Christian Ayerst · Apr 5, 2021

Uber has announced that from Wednesday 16 March, it will be offering drivers worker benefits, including: 

  • A minimum hourly wage

  • Holiday pay; and 

  • Pension contributions. 

This is a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling (see our report: https://www.getgigl.com/blog/they-think-its-all-uber-it-is-now-) which confirmed that Uber drivers are workers, rather than self-employed freelancers. 

In English law it is important to remember there is a 3-tier classification:

  • Employees - who are entitled to rewards such as holiday pay, sick pay, insurance and a minimum wage; 

  • Workers - who are entitled to less protections than employees; and 

  • Self-employed freelancers - who must provide and account for their own earnings and receive extremely limited protection from employers. 

So from Wednesday, Uber is treating drivers as workers - and on the face of things, providing them with workers’ rights and entitlements. 

But - there is a sting in the tail:

  • The “minimum wage” element will only apply whilst the drivers are undertaking rides. And not from when they are logged-on until when they are logged-off. Remember - the Supreme Court said that a driver’s “working time” run from the moment they log-in to the Uber App until the moment they log-out. So this time-limited minimum wage payment seems a little odd in light of the decision of the Supreme Court. And especially given that the purpose of the minimum wage is to protect a worker from the risk of there being no work. 

  • The raft of entitlement only applies from Wednesday (15 March 2021). There is apparently no back-dating of claims - meaning that drivers who have driven for years with Uber can only collect these rights starting from now. Given that institutions such as HMRC and financial institutions regularly backdate calculations once a decision is made, Uber are likely to come under pressure to adopt this approach. And the money has to come from somewhere…

  • Uber’s position on sick pay isn’t clear. Many drivers may have to self-isolate due to COVID-19 exposure - or choose to shield as members of at-risk categories. Uber are entitled to block/remove drivers using the Uber platform at their discretion - and the latest news has not clarified the situation. 

So what are the lessons here for employers:

  1. If you’re going to treat people as workers, do it 100% or don’t do it at all. The above is likely to generate plenty of juicy legal cases - at a cost to Uber which might translate to customers. 

  2. Working 9-to-5. Take an objective look at your self-employed staff. In the cold light of day, can you really call them “freelancers” - or following the Uber decision are they more likely to be classed as workers? If the latter, it’s time to work with them to find an arrangement which suits everyone. A change in position by an industry heavyweight such as Uber is likely to have a knock-on effect for other players. Would you rather take the lead, or be told what to do?

Quality, not quantity. Your staff reflect your brand and if you’re going to be providing benefits to them - you want to provide them to people who are aligned with your vision and mission. Use a platform such as gigl - where candidates apply with a 60-second video, immediately telling you if they are the brand representatives you need in this market!