Uber drivers not employees
Australia’s most popular rideshare app, Uber, has now been cleared of suspected breaches of workplace laws after the Fair Work Ombudsman completed an investigation into the company, finding their driver-partners are genuine independent contractors.
The Ombudsman’s two-year investigation assessed whether a genuine employment relationship existed and looked into a “wide range of evidence” including drivers’ contracts, log records, payment statements, bank records, pricing schedules and interviews with Uber Australia and drivers.
The decision has been welcomed by Uber Australia and stands in stark contrast to a decision in the UK, ruling Uber drivers employees, which is currently in the appeal process.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that a key finding was that Uber drivers are not subject to any formal or operational obligation to perform work.
“For such a relationship to exist, the courts have determined that there must be, at a minimum, an obligation for an employee to perform work when it is demanded by the employer,” Ms Parker said.
The Ombudsman didn’t, however, let the gig economy off the hook. The investigation related solely to Uber Australia and Ms Parker noted that there will be continuing assessment of allegations of non-compliance on a case-by-case basis.
The decision hasn’t been welcomed by all with University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart commenting the matter “could and arguably should have been tested in court, not behind closed doors.”
Mr Stewart raised concerns that the finding does nothing to protect Uber which he says “remains vulnerable to claims from drivers and/or unions”.
For the full press release click here.
Harry McDonald is a solicitor admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Queensland, practising in the Commercial and Property Law team at Greenhalgh Pickard Solicitors. Within commercial law, Harry has a keen interest in employment law and enjoys assisting commercial clients in all areas of their employment & industrial relations with experience in employment contracts, sub-contractor agreements, restraint clauses, unfair dismissals, general protections, workplace policies and guidelines and general HR advice.