The Uber Dilemma – Contractors Or Employees?

February 22nd, 2021

The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers should not be considered outside contractors, but company staff.  The decision means drivers should be entitled to basic rights of employment.  This could have significant ramifications on New Zealand law, particularly given that a similar case was heard with Uber in New Zealand.  It clearly exemplifies the imperative changes to our employment law.

The current legislative employment framework is completely outdated. It fails to appreciate the proliferation of “gig” economy organisations fuelled even more so now by the impact of COVID-19.

Such business models do not fit easily with the change in the way work and businesses operate, and organisations such as Uber blur the boundaries between employees and contractors.

Without legislative protection the new “gig’ business model allows for potential exploitation and creates a new class of vulnerable workers. These workers (those who do the work) have no rights to minimum wage (payments) no sick leave and they cannot bring a claim for personal grievance.

With the growth in “gig” economy the current legislative framework excludes all relationships other than those that are pure employment.

Current legal tests for determining the true nature of a relationship contractor or employment are artificial and rely upon a fictional assessment of the facts to squeeze the realty.  Law that cannot be respected is bad law.

Hybrid gig arrangements ought to have legal recognition for what they are. Workers engaged in the gig economy ought to have the same rights and protections as those employed – as the Uber finding in the UK upholds.

The current framework excludes all relationships that are predicated on the old Victorian master /servant type arrangements that grew out of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1894.  Control and rigidity are a key determinant of what is an employee.  Such traditional concepts are denying the modern reality of flexible working arrangements and business initiatives.

It is high time for a change. It is time to level the playing fields and recognise the digital revolution and definition of “work” and the fact that there is now a new class of workers evolving that are neither employees or independent contractors but a hybrid of the two who need to have protection and rights.


If you feel your rights are being impinged, get in touch with Buckett Law today.

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