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Wed Feb 19, 2020, 08:54 AM

Uber, employment and the gig economy

Whatever the company might wish to call it, Uber’s relationship with its workers is one of employment.


The emergence of digital technologies as intermediaries between producers and consumers of goods and services has led to a significant change in the labour market. Globalisation of the economy has drastically increased competition and caused the number of atypical labour forms to grow. The expansion of these new forms of employment entails the creation of new kinds of contract, and in many cases the circumvention of employment law, as workers are turned into ‘entrepreneurs’.

Take the legal relationship between Uber and the company’s drivers, as an example of the connection between the term ‘worker’ and the gig economy. The platform makes it possible to request transport services via a smartphone with the Uber app installed. The app detects the location of the user and finds the nearest available driver, who has entered into a contract with the company.

Uber bills the user on behalf of the provider of the transport service, then pays part of the sum to the (non-professional) driver—reserving the right to change the general terms and conditions at its sole discretion, without requiring the driver’s consent. For his part, the provider of the service (the driver) has the right, independently and at his own discretion, to accept or reject the request, thus serving his own economic goals. The app has the option to rate drivers. The company thus exerts indirect influence over them and can deactivate the app for the driver at any moment if there are several low scores.

Legal relationship

These features can lead to the prima facie conclusion that the legal relationship between Uber and its drivers is in essence civil, as in civil-law relationships the party performing the contract is independent of the party requesting the work. The latter is not interested in the organisation of labour, nor in its creation.


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