Get me an Uber!

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

An interesting story today about industrial action being taken by taxi drivers working for Uber. The action is taking place in the USA and in cities across the UK (including Glasgow). It is designed to draw attention to working practices within the company before it lists its shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

Quite a few of my previous blogs have looked at employment status and the steady increase in the number of individuals who provide services to organisations but, critically, not under the traditional employment contract model.

Section 230(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 contains the definition of who precisely is an employee i.e. someone who has a contract of service. If you don’t have this type of contractual arrangement (you’re not an employee), you may well be working under a contract for services. This is one of the most important distinctions in employment law in the United Kingdom.

Those individuals working under a contract for services – precisely because of their lack of employment status – are often denied access to the sorts of legal rights which employees routinely take for granted e.g. unfair dismissal protection, redundancy protection, family friendly rights, rights to information and consultation etc.

Admittedly, employees will not acquire these rights from day 1 of their employment, but the critical difference in relation to people working under a contract for services is that they have the potential to obtain employment rights (by completing the requisite period of continuous service e.g. 2 years’ continuous service for entitlement to protection against unfair dismissal and for entitlement to a redundancy payment.

There’s now a growing awareness on both the part of the UK Government (The Taylor Review) and the European Union (the forthcoming EU Directive on Transparent and predictable working conditions) that people on contracts for services deserve greater levels of work-place protection.

The industrial action being taken by Uber drivers today is principally an attempt by these types of workers to secure better contractual terms and conditions. The law does now appear to be recognising that individuals working for organisations such as Uber (and Lyft) are not genuinely self-employed persons. Rather they should be categorised as workers with an entitlement to a basic level of legal protection (see the English Court of Appeal’s decision in Uber BV & Ors v Aslam & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 2748 on appeal from UKEAT/0056/17/DA).

A link to the Aslam judgement can be found below:

Click to access uber-bv-ors-v-aslam-ors-judgment-19.12.18.pdf

A link to an article on the BBC website about the industrial action can be found below:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48190176

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 8 May 2019

The gig economy

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

On 16 April 2019, the European Parliament adopted measures in a new European Union Directive that will give workers providing services in the so called gig economy greater legal protection. The Directive will not apply to those individuals who are genuinely self-employed (see previous Blog: “Hello, I’m Lorraine and I’m definitely self-employed” published on 22 March 2019).

The final text of the Directive was adopted with 466 votes to 145 and 37 abstentions. The EU Council of Ministers had already approved the measures.

The EU member states will have three years to put the rules into practice.

The new Directive has a working title of the Transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union. The Directive will eventually repeal Council Directive 91/533/EEC and it has been introduced using the Ordinary Legislative Procedure of the EU (formerly the Co-decision procedure).

Council Directive 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 related to an employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship. Note the wording of this Directive title: it contains the key term of ’employees’, so casual workers were most definitely not covered by its provisions.

Member states will have 3 years in which to implement the new Directive.

Typically, in the popular imagination, gig economy workers are personified by the likes of Uber taxi drivers and Deliveroo couriers. In comparison to employees, gig economy workers tend to lack job security and have far fewer employment rights. Unlike employees who have a contract of service, gig economy workers have a contract for services (a key distinction in employment law).

In a press release issued via the official EU website (Europa), the main objectives of the new Directive are listed:

  • Basic rights (i.e. a floor of rights) for workers in casual or short term employment
  • Working conditions must be clearly stated on Day 1 of employment, and no later than 7 days in permitted circumstances
  • Limiting probationary periods to a maximum of 6 months

A link to the EU press release can be found below:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190410IPR37562/meps-approve-boost-to-workers-rights-in-the-gig-economy

A link to an infographic outlining the key objectives of the new Directive can be found below:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20190404STO35070/gig-economy-eu-law-to-improve-workers-rights-infographic

The Independent newspaper also reported the new Directive in its edition of 18 April 2019.

A link to the article can be found below:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.180419/data/8874676/index.html

The new Directive is firmly part of the EU’s Social Pillar which was itself adopted at Gothenburg, Sweden on 17 November 2017.

As European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker said at the time of the adoption of the Social Pillar:

“Today we commit ourselves to a set of 20 principles and rights. From the right to fair wages to the right to health care; from lifelong learning, a better work-life balance and gender equality to minimum income: with the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU stands up for the rights of its citizens in a fast-changing world.”

 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/deeper-and-fairer-economic-and-monetary-union/european-pillar-social-rights_en

Brexit Alert!!!

At the moment, the UK has committed itself to leave the EU. The latest deadline for doing so is 31 October 2019. Will a future UK Parliament or Government choose to implement the provisions of the Directive if this country is an ex-member state of the EU? That really depends on the type of relationship that this country has with the EU 3 years from now. Any future trading agreement with the EU may contain provisions about minimum employment protection laws. We will just have to wait and see what happens. It seems rather sad that when the EU is passing a very progressive measure, the UK has decided to leave the organisation.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 19 April 2019