James Farrar, from Wexford, took Uber to court in the UK in order to force them to classify its drivers as workers rather than self-employed, third party contractors. After a five-year battle through the courts, which included the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the High Court, the Supreme Court ruled in Mr Farrar’s favour in February.
Lower courts ruled in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in favour of the group of 20 Uber drivers who argue they were entitled to employee status given the length of time they had been working through the Uber app, and the way that the company oversaw their work.
The appeal brought by Uber to the Supreme Court was their last opportunity to reverse the decision and no further higher Courts remain that Uber can appeal to. It means that all Uber drivers in the UK are now entitled to the minimum wage along with other basic workers’ rights such as breaks, sick pay and holiday pay.
Delivering his judgment, Lord Leggatt said that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal that it was an intermediary party between driver and customer. According to the judgment a driver should be considered to be working for Uber not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.
James Farrar, originally from Enniscorthy and lives in Hampshire, first won his case at the Employment Tribunal against the ride hailing app giant in October 2016, along with fellow driver Yaseen Aslam. An attack on him while driving in 2015 prompted Mr Farrar to inspect the contract Uber has with its drivers and investigate exactly what duty of care Uber owed its employees. His research uncovered a lack of responsibility that the company showed to its drivers.
Along with Mr Aslam he formed the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) with Yaseen Aslam as president and Mr Farrar as general secretary.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, which is backdated, means that Uber is facing a hefty compensation bill. It is also believed that the Supreme Court’s ruling will have wider consequences for the gig economy.
On hearing the ruling Valerie Farrell, partner at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP stated, “This judgment although not directly applicable here in Ireland will likely influence how Irish Courts consider such cases and employers will need to consider their responsibilities to gig workers and contractors very carefully.”
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, business and employers’ group Ibec said that it would take time to reflect upon it and the implications for the domestic labour market here, if any.
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email firstname.lastname@example.org