Employment status in the “gig economy”
You may be aware of the recent, well-reported “gig economy” decisions in the cases of Uber, City Sprint, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers. These decisions have shown that employment judges are looking beyond an employer’s characterisation of its relationship with their workers when determining employment status.
The Uber case in particular has attracted plenty of attention. In this decision, the Employment Tribunal found that the model Uber had developed, whereby drivers were characterised as self-employed and the contractual documentation created to support self-employed status, did not accord with the reality of the working arrangement. The Tribunal determined that Uber drivers were workers for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.
Uber appealed this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and, on 10 November 2017, the EAT upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal.
In an attempt to overturn the decision of the EAT, Uber subsequently submitted a petition to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, leapfrogging the Court of Appeal. The petition has since been refused and the appeal will therefore be heard by the Court of Appeal at some point next year.
How does this impact upon schools?
Whilst these ‘gig-economy’ arrangements are unlikely to be of direct significance to schools, the principles surrounding worker status may be relevant in circumstances where individuals are engaged on a self-employment basis (for example, peripatetic music teachers and sports coaches). The distinction between self-employed and worker status is often finely balanced and schools should ensure that its contractual documentation with staff accurately reflects the reality of the working relationship.
Schools should also be mindful that employment status remains firmly on the Government’s agenda following a review on modern employment practices by Matthew Taylor and his report, “Good Work” which was published in July 2017. The report makes a number of recommendations aiming to provide greater clarity in relation to worker status, including renaming workers as ‘dependent contractors’ and updating the tests for establishing worker status. It remains to be seen which proposals within the report, if any, the Government will proceed with; however, any changes in this area are likely to impact upon all employers, not just those operating on ‘gig economy’ platforms.
We will keep you updated as matters progress.