Worker status cases

27 November 2017

This article was featured in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of the magazine.

This is a brief outline of the status of various notorious cases and recent developments 

Several momentous cases involving disputes over whether workers in parts of the so-called gig-economy are self-employed or workers/employees have made UK headlines in the last year or so. The actual status has significant impact on the statutory rights of the individuals (e.g. entitlement to national minimum wage, holiday and sick pay) and the operational basis of the businesses in question.

In November 2017, the employment appeal tribunal rejected Uber’s appeal against the decision of the employment tribunal delivered in October 2016 which was that the drivers are workers. Uber has 50,000 drivers in the UK. It remains to be seen whether Uber will seek leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The case involving Pimlico Plumbers had already reached the Court of Appeal where it was held that the claimant is entitled to employment rights. It is understood that Pimlico Plumbers has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Although the trend of decisions in the above and other status cases is generally against the businesses, in November 2017 the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) decided that Deliveroo riders are self-employed contractors not workers. The CAC, which is a tribunal non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, encourages fair and efficient arrangements in the workplace by resolving collective disputes in England, Scotland and Wales, either by voluntary agreement or, if necessary, through a legal decision. Among its responsibilities is disputes involving the statutory recognition of trade unions.

The Independent Workers’ Union had sought union recognition on behalf of Deliveroo riders, which required the CAC to decide whether the riders were workers and not self-employed. The CAC found that, as the riders had a genuine right to substitute another person to carry out their work for them and there was evidence this took place, they could not be classed as workers.

However, 45 Deliveroo riders have lodged employment status claims at employment tribunal which could lead to a different outcome. 

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*content correct at time of publishing