Uber employment changes to impact IR35, self-employed workers & raise 'gig economy' costs

Uber will be awarding its drivers with employed status going forward, which will mean its workers will get certain employment and pension entitlements. Uber’s decisions could have far reaching ramifications for the “gig economy” and beyond, with consumers and self-employed workers alike set to be affected.

“I see little to no benefit in operating this way, as additional admin and PAYE tax, coupled with no employment rights and increased risk are not a good combination in my book.

“As the spotlight is being shone on the rights of so called gig economy workers, I believe businesses operating these models should review and ultimately offer better protection to those inside IR35 by allowing them the employment rights they deserve.”

Despite the furore created by the news, some fear the changes due will be slow to arrive.

Emma Swan, the head of commercial employment law at Forbes Solicitors, warned: “Although the Uberisation of self-employed drivers leaves the gig economy open to challenges about how working arrangements are made with temporary workforces, it’s unlikely that we’ll see huge change overnight.

“The same could be said of other self-employed individuals whose regular source of income is from one particular job and business.

“Such circumstances may actually encourage gig economy businesses to proactively grant temporary staff with ‘workers’ status, rather than risk a potential court battle that’s expensive and damaging, with an individual arguing that they are an employee and should have full employment rights. Society is increasingly campaigning for what’s morally right and providing temporary workers with increased entitlements is more favourable for companies than being forced into making changes.

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“It would be more difficult to apply the notion of ‘subordination and dependency’ in gig economy businesses reliant on seasonal and project work, where temporary workers receive less of a regular income. This is another reason why it will take much time to see how the Uberisation of workers will affect the wider gig economy.”

For other businesses likely to be affected by this ruling, those akin to the likes of Deliveroo or Airbnb, some warned the companies themselves will need to tread a fine line.

Anna Nelson, an employment law advisor at Howarths, explained: “We might see businesses tweaking their business models so they have less control over the individuals who provide work for them, allowing the flexibility that comes with ‘true’ self-employed status.

“This would include giving these individuals the ability to decide how and when they work, without direct supervision and without them being ‘integrated’ into the company. They should be able to provide their own tools and equipment to carry out the work, have the opportunity to profit from their work success, and be able to provide substitutes of their choosing if they’re unable to carry out the work themselves.

“However, this level of flexibility is not feasible for every business, so it will be really important that companies operating within the gig economy who are not providing this option consider the reality of their working relationships – and whether they are likely to suffer a similar fate to Uber if they were to be taken to court.”

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