HM Insights

Uber and continuing consequences for the gig economy

Following the landmark decision in Uber BV and others v Aslam ("Uber") earlier this year (which you can read all about here), we are already beginning to see significant reverberations throughout the wider UK "gig economy". 

By way of recap, the ruling by the Supreme Court in Uber confirmed that drivers for Uber were considered as workers in accordance with UK employment law – and not self-employed contractors.  In essence, this meant that Uber drivers were entitled to a range of employment rights and benefits, and shortly after the ruling, Uber did indeed grant its 70,000 UK drivers a number of employment rights including holiday pay, guaranteed minimum wage, and pension contributions.   

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Coming less than two months after the Uber ruling, the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) organised strike action against the popular food delivery company Deliveroo, with the action coinciding with the company's first day of trading on the London Stock Market. The action, which resulted in hundreds of drivers demonstrating near Deliveroo HQ in London, was organised in the wake of allegations that a significant proportion of the company's drivers earned less than the adult minimum wage (with the lowest paid rider reportedly earning as little as £2 per hour).

Whilst it should be said that the Uber decision is not directly applicable to all workers other than drivers for Uber, it would not be unreasonable to draw conclusions that the decision played some kind of a role in the subsequent strike action against Deliveroo. Interestingly, Uber have yet to make any similar changes to the Uber Eats service – which is a food delivery service similar to Deliveroo.

Addison Lee v Lange – a similar case

More recently, and in another significant moment for the UK's gig economy, worker status for drivers of minicab company Addison Lee was recently confirmed, following the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Addison Lee v Lange ("Addison Lee"). Similar to Uber, the Addison Lee case had a relatively long journey following appeals by Addison Lee from the decisions in the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeals Tribunal in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Addison Lee were given permission to appeal in 2019, though the appeal was subject to the judgement in Uber, with Lord Justice Bean noting at the time;

"If the appeal to the Supreme Court in Uber v Aslam is successful it may call into question the decisions of the ET and EAT in the present case. This appeal should not be listed until after judgment is given in Uber v Aslam although it should then be expedited."

Accordingly, Lord Justice Bean subsequently decided that the Addison Lee case should not progress to a further appeal, on the basis that the prospects of a successful appeal had been extinguished by the ruling in Uber, noting that;

"… there is no longer a reasonable prospect of success in overturning that finding in the present case and there is no compelling reason why this appeal should proceed further."

Get in touch – we're here to help

With the Uber ruling (and now the Addison Lee ruling) continuing to shake up the gig economy, companies with similar business models to that of Uber and Addison Lee, may be looking on anxiously. Please get in touch with one of our employment team to discuss if you think that these decisions may impact your business.

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