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Addison Lee Worker Status

May 5, 2021

In the recent case of Addison Lee Ltd v Lange and others [2021] EWCA Civ 594, Addison Lee sought to distinguish the Uber decision in relation to worker status (a summary of which can be found here.

Summary

The recent Supreme Court decision in Uber BV and others v Aslam and others [2019] ICR 845 (the ‘Uber Case’) has impacted a similar case regarding Addison Lee driver ‘worker status’.

A claim was brought against Addison Lee by Mr Lange and two colleagues claiming that drivers for Addison Lee were ‘workers’ under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Within their roles as drivers, Mr Lange and his colleagues had contracts with Addison Lee which stated they were ‘independent contractors’, were allocated jobs when they logged onto Addison Lee’s system (and were subject to sanctions if they refused a job) and were told that they could expect to work around 50 to 60 hours a week (although there was no promise of hours).

Following consideration of the above, an Employment Tribunal held that Mr Lange and his colleagues were within the definition of ‘workers’ under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Addison Lee’s subsequent appeal was dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Addison Lee then applied for permission to appeal against the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision. The Court of Appeal granted permission, but stayed the appeal pending the Uber Case decision.

The Supreme Court in the Uber Case held that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and are not self-employed.

Following the decision in the Uber Case, the Court of Appeal refused Addison Lee permission to appeal on the basis that Addison Lee’s appeal had no reasonable prospects of success.

Addison Lee had sought to distinguish the case from the Uber Case on the basis of differences in the contractual documentation. However, the Court of Appeal considered that Mr Lange and his colleagues had an express contract with Addison Lee that negated any mutuality of obligation as they could be subject to sanctions for refusing jobs.

The Court of Appeal also considered that the Uber Case confirmed that a tribunal should disregard any contractual provision that does not reflect reality. The Court of Appeal considered that it was an ‘unappealable finding of fact’ that an Addison Lee driver undertook to accept jobs allocated to them when they were logged on.

Addison Lee also sought for the Court of Appeal to reconsider the Employment Tribunal’s decision that when drivers were logged on, this satisfied the definition of working time as they were at Addison Lee’s disposal in light of the decision in DJ v RadioTelevizija Slovenija (Case C‑344/19) ECLI:EU:C:2021:182 regarding standby time and working time. The Court of Appeal confirmed this case did not throw any doubt on the Tribunal’s finding in this case.

Key takeaway

In light of the Uber Case, the Court of Appeal’s decision confirmed the Employment Tribunal’s finding that Addison Lee drivers are workers. This case, and the Uber Case, remind employers that a tribunal will look to the reality of a relationship and will not be bound by language used in documentation when determining worker status and rights.

For further information or to discuss the issues raised by this update, please contact our Employment Group on 0118 977 4045 or employment@herrington-carmichael.com.

Click here to see our ‘Employment Law Figures 2021’ which includes basic figures, time off work, living wage, minimum wage and tax rates.

 

This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.

Jessica Chard

Jessica Chard

Trainee Solicitor, Employment Law

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