Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

The Supreme Court recently handed down judgment in one of the most widely reported and important employment law cases in recent history. The Respondent claimants in Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents) claimed that they should be considered “workers” as defined by the Employment Rights Act 1996, and other relevant employment legislation.

The claimants, if so considered, would be entitled to a range of benefits and protection which statute only affords to workers and employees. Uber, as one might expect, denied that the claimants were workers and insisted that they were independent contractors who, as such, were not entitled to those perks.

The initial decision

The Employment Tribunal held in favour of the drivers, ruling that they were workers, whose working hours came into effect whenever three criteria were met. Those were:

  1. That their app was switched on;
  2. They were willing and ready to accept trips; and
  3. They were within their working territory.

While the app was switched off, it was held that there was no question of any contractual obligation to provide driving services, and that there was no ‘umbrella’ contract.

The appeals

The Employment Tribunal’s decision was upheld by both the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and the Court of Appeal. The EAT addressed in more detail the fact that Uber had specified in their written contracts with the drivers that they weren’t to be considered as workers. The EAT held that the initial Tribunal had been entitled to reject Uber’s characterisation of the relationship within those written contracts.

The Supreme Court case

Uber appealed to the Supreme Court on broadly the same grounds as the other appeals, namely questioning:

  1. Whether the respondents (the drivers) were “workers” providing personal services to Uber; and
  2. If they were, what periods constituted their “working time”.

Uber’s main assertion was that they merely constituted a facilitator, acting as a go-between for drivers and passengers. Their argument was that any contract which was formed was between those two parties, and their 20% fee was to be regarded as a service charge for connecting the two. They centred arguments on the fact that drivers had huge amounts of flexibility, and the fact that Uber drivers interact directly with their riders.

The decision

The court held, as all of the appellate courts and the initial tribunal had done before it, that the drivers were in fact workers. The court looked at the actual relationship between the parties, rather than what had been specifically defined in their contracts. The court’s approach to this was, to put it informally, say ‘if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’. Taking into account the fact that Uber could penalise their drivers, had control over setting the fare, limited their interactions with passengers, and the fact that drivers had very limited control over their terms of service, the court defined the relationship as being Uber with whom the passengers contract, and Uber then engages drivers to transport the passengers who have booked.


Uber will have to come up with the money to pay drivers for the time that they had their app switched on, and so were “workers” who were on the clock. It is not impossible, based on their approach in this case so far, and in other cases in other jurisdictions, that Uber may regard this as being a very narrow issue relating to their practices from a few years ago, and may attempt to resist paying out compensation to a great number of their drivers.

Link to judgment: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2019-0029-judgment.pdf

Tagged with →  

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry


    4.81 Average

    313 Reviews


    Sacha was very thorough and very helpful, with great advice on when to act and when to wait on my case.

    Posted 3 days ago


    I have been very pleased with the support I got from Redmans Solicitors on my case with my employer. Caroline has always helped me to put things in perspective and showed me different scenarios ultimately to help me taking the right decision. She was very professional and always available when I needed, and at the same time also emphatic which I found also really important to establish a strong relationship. Will definitely recommend!

    Posted 5 days ago


    Prompt and efficient response to my enquiries. Excellent negotiating skills with my employer which considerably improved the terms of my settlement agreement.

    Posted 5 days ago


    Very quick and professional service , Rana was very helpful

    Posted 6 days ago

    James G

    Very professional, knowledgeable and kept me informed at every stage of my case. I would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Pravina P

    Chris was really good and help solve my issues with current company. I would recommend him to anyone.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Paul L

    Sacha was extremely helpful in my matter. I would not hesitate you use Sacha or Redmonds again. Everyone was very helpful.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Monique N

    I had Mel Chin helping me with a settlement and she was very professional and reliable throughout my case. Mel provided me with a good understanding of what was happening and gave suggestions on routes I could take. My case was resolved and closed promptly although the opposing side were very difficult to deal with. A very big thank you to Mel and Chris.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Jackie C

    My first ever experience needing the services of a solicitor; cannot speak highly enough of Mel and Chris’s personable, reassuring and straight to the point advice in dealing with my settlement agreement. They put me at ease during an extremely stressful time. I am equally as happy with the outcome, as l am their professional services.

    Posted 3 weeks ago


    Really happy with the service. All very efficient. Mel rattled through things very fast, however was great whenever I needed to stop and ask a question! Would definitely return to Redmans if I ever needed Legal advice.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Peter F

    Very helpful and clear advice, would highly recommend.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    William A

    Second time I have had to use Redmans. They did not disappoint. They are fast , efficient and friendly. I have already recommended them to friends and colleagues. I hope I dont have to use them again but if I have to , they are the solicitors for me.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Fleeta C

    Great service with tantastic communications. The solicitor responsible is extremely knowledgeable and was responsible for bringing a timely and desired solution.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Veronica M

    Extremely helpful, starting from a request for advice at very short notice, to dedicating time for me to understand and review all documents thoroughly.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Sophie R

    Very efficient and professional service. Chris was very empathetic, knowledgeable and personable. Highly recommended.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Melanie M

    Very happy with the detailed advice provided from Redmans. They also helped me to secure a higher settlement than originally offered by my employer and were extremely diligent. I first spoke with Chris at relatively short notice and then Sacha dealt with my case. Would definitely recommend and use again in the future if needed.

    Posted 1 month ago


    Redmans helped me with a work related issue, which was resolved quickly and professionally. I would definitely recommend this company.

    Posted 1 month ago

    James F

    Great people, really friendly and professional helped with everything that I needed.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anusha S

    My case was handled by Sacha who was very thorough and helped me to achieve a good outcome with my employer. Sacha was very personal, professional and helped me during quite a stressful time, so I am hugely grateful to her and to Redmans. This was my first time engaging with a law firm so I wasn't sure what to expect but I can definitely say that it was a good experience overall and I ended up better off due to having the help of an experienced and proactive solicitor on my side.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Diane P

    So grateful that I contacted Redmans to deal with my Redundancy Agreement. Everything from the initial call to the completion of the matter was professional, efficient and effective. I was listened to, had everything explained simply and kept informed of every step. I received super advice and the costs were very competitive. I would highly recommend them to anyone seeking similar help. First class service - thank you

    Posted 1 month ago

    Chris L

    It was a very efficient and effective service - Would recommend.

    Posted 1 month ago