Gig economy update

We’re actually no further forward – but some interesting things have been happening.

Uber appeal

On 27-28 September the EAT heard an appeal from the tribunal decision in the Uber case – that several of its drivers are workers. Uber is vigorously defending the claim as a large financial liability looms should it ultimately lose. Judgment has been reserved. Even if Uber loses in the EAT, a further appeal seems likely/certain.

Addison Lee

Also in September a London tribunal held that three drivers for Addison Lee are ‘workers’ and thus entitled to holiday pay, the National Minimum Wage and certain other benefits. The claim is effectively a test case for the roughly 4,000 other drivers working for the company. Similarly to the Uber case, the drivers are supported by the GMB union. The tribunal highlighted the ‘symbiotic relationship’ between Addison Lee and its drivers: once they’d logged into the AL platform, the commercial reality was that they had to accept jobs.

Pimlico Plumbers

Following the rejection of its case by the Court of Appeal, Pimlico Plumbers is heading to the Supreme Court. The case is due to be heard in February 2018.

The key feature of all the tribunal decisions to date has been their readiness, indeed keenness, to look behind the contractual documentation to assess the practical reality of the working arrangements. It’s likely that this will come under scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

Taylor Review

We still await the government’s response to the Taylor Review which, in July this year, came up with a series of recommendations for dealing with ‘gig economy’ issues. Consumed as it is with Brexit issues, the government must be tempted at least to delay any decisions until after the Supreme Court has given its judgment in the Pimlico case. One respected employment law commentator has argued that the current legal definitions of ‘worker’, ‘self-employed’ and ‘employee’ are actually working rather well – see ‘Employment status – in praise of fuzziness’.