What the British Court says about work on platforms

In 2021, the British Court made two important decisions regarding the rights of digital platform workers — find out what they are.

In one year, UK courts make two decisions about gig economy professionals

What is the working relationship that exists between professionals and digital platforms Where do you provide your services? In 2021, this issue shook the courts in the United Kingdom, which throughout the year judged two cases on the status of those working in the gig economy with passenger transport and delivery.

In February of that year, the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled on an individual action by two Uber drivers who sought recognition that an employment contract existed between them and the company.

The case went through several instances, and the final decision recognized the two professionals as workers, an intermediate category that lies between the self-employed and the employed — and has no parallel in Brazil. By being considered workers, and not “independent contractors” (like self-employed professionals), the two drivers gained some labor rights, such as the establishment of a minimum wage, the right to collect social security contributions and proportional vacations.

“In this decision, there was recognition of a working relationship between the two professionals and Uber, but not an employment relationship. There is a difference between employment rights and labor rights, which are broader”, comments Ana Carolina Silveira, researcher at FGV Direito SP, who participated in the preparation of a thematic briefing on the subject, which was supported by iFood.

She explains that this decision recognizes the existence of an employment contract, and not a civil or commercial contract. On the other hand, workers are not employees, therefore they do not have the same rights as these, such as sick pay, maternity or paternity leave, advance notice in case of dismissal or the right to union representation, points out the briefing.

In addition to classifying workers as workers, the British Supreme Court's decision understood that the period of working time, considered for calculating labor funds, is the time that the professional remains logged into the platform.

“This was only applied to the complainants, as it was an action with individual effects. In its policy, Uber maintained the position of calculating remuneration based on the time between the beginning and end of trips, but made acceptance and refusal by drivers more flexible, possibly to protect itself from other future legal demands”, he explains. Ana. “As it is multiplatform work, it is common for companies to claim that they have no control over the active time of workers, who may be logged into one platform while providing services to others. The regulatory challenge is to come up with an equation that also considers workers’ waiting time between service requests.”

After the decision, Uber changed its policy: it set a minimum hourly wage for workers and started paying proportional vacations and collecting the social security quota. “The platform maintained the offer of sickness and accident insurance and maternity and paternity leave, which they already offered before this decision, but only for drivers and in the United Kingdom”, adds the expert.

Delivery drivers are considered self-employed


Another relevant decision about work in the gig economy in the United Kingdom concerns professionals who make deliveries. In June, the delivery platform Deliveroo won a victory in the courts, which considered that its workers are self-employed.

In this case, it is a collective action filed by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which sought the recognition of an employment relationship (and not labor, as in the case of Uber) between professionals and the company.

In the first decision, in 2017, the United Kingdom's Central Arbitration Committee denied the request for recognition of this link. This is because one of the criteria to fit into the employee category is personality, that is, the worker cannot be replaced by another when carrying out the work.

As Deliveroo provides in the contract with professionals that delivery drivers can send a substitute to carry out a delivery order, they can only be considered in the self-employed category. On two other occasions, the High Court upheld the decision of the Arbitration Committee. In the most recent decision, in June 2021, the Court of Appeal did the same.

Quick read: what the British Court says


About Uber drivers
The Supreme Court ruled that the contract that was signed between the two drivers who filed an individual action is an employment contract, and not a commercial contract. The judges defined that they fall into the worker category, that is, they have labor rights (such as minimum wage and social security contributions), but not the same employment rights as the employee category (such as advance notice and assistance).

About Deliveroo couriers
In the four decisions taken by the Court between 2017 and 2021 following collective action by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, the courts reaffirm that couriers who work for the platform are self-employed, and not employees, as their contract allows them to send a replacement to make the delivery. Under British law, to be considered an employee, a worker cannot be replaced by another when doing their job.

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