Addison Lee drivers are workers

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Employment Status: Addison Lee Ltd v Lange & Others

The Employment Tribunal has yet again been asked to decide upon that blurred line between self-employed, worker and employee. It appears to be ever-more important in today’s gig-economy where the constructs surrounding traditional employment appear to be changing and flexible working seems to be on the rise.

The recent appeal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) involved Addison Lee, a popular app-based private hire taxi company and its drivers. The drivers were arguing that they were workers and therefore entitled to the national minimum wage, paid holidays, sick pay etc, and Addison Lee were arguing that the drivers were self employed and as such not entitled to these employment rights. The drivers were found to be ‘workers’ in the first instance, however Addison Lee appealed the decision to the EAT.

The contracts in place governing the working relationship between the drivers and the company stated that the drivers were self-employed. However, just because something is written into a contract doesn’t mean it is necessarily true, if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is usually a duck regardless of what you call it. This rings true for the employment sphere. If all of the elements of a worker or employee are present yet you label it as self-employment then it’s still unlikely to be so.

The drivers were provided with portable computers called an XDA, although a driver could choose when to log into the XDA. Once logged in, work was automatically allocated to the driver and if work was refused, reasons had to be provided, failure of which could result in sanctions being implemented. The EAT held that a “realistic and worldly wise” approach outlined by the Supreme Court in Autoclenz was to be applied. The EAT looked at the operation of the business and the company’s relationship with the drivers as a whole commenting that if the drivers had unfettered discretion to refuse bookings based on how favourable they were, the business would be difficult to operate and as such there was a level of obligation on the driver to perform their duties when logged onto the system. It was held therefore that the drivers were ‘workers’ when logged into the XDA.  They were not genuinely self-employed contractors.

Addison Lee Ltd v Lange and others UKEAT/0037/18

If you feel that you are a worker or an employee, yet you are not being afforded any employment rights, please call our expert employment lawyers to discuss your specific requirements on 0207 956 8699 or email info@rllaw.co.uk.

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