by Jonathan Goldberg and Grant Wilkinson

There has been much case law generated globally thanks to Uber. Specifically, this surrounds the status of Uber drivers. Are they employees or independent contractors?

In the UK, a group of Uber Drivers filed a case with the UK Employment Tribunal stating that they should be seen as employees and not as independent contractors. The Tribunal ruled that the drivers were indeed employees of Uber and the company lodged an appeal against this. Last week, it was reported that the appeal lodged by Uber had failed.

In South Africa, a similar case was referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). In Uber South Africa Technological Services (Pty) Ltd v NUPSAW & others (Case No WECT1257-16, 7 July 2017) (CCMA) a group of Uber drivers were excluded from the Uber app. They stated that this was an unfair dismissal. Uber raised the same defence as they had in the UK, stating that the drivers are not their employees. However, the CCMA Commissioner stated that in fact they are employees as they are wholly dependent on access to the app, which is given by the company, for business.

After the CCMA ruling, the Department of Labour (DoL) issued a statement applauding the decision of the Commissioner to recognise Uber drivers as employees:

“The decision is in line with the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 as amended. It means that any person who falls in that category is an employee and therefore fully covered in terms of labour legislation,” said the DoL.

However, in the US it was ruled that Uber drivers are indeed independent contractors and not employees so taking the side of the technology company.

The model that Uber has developed has taken the world of work by storm. It’s highlighted the fact that we need to rethink how labour legislation is designed so that all are afforded protection by labour law. At our Employment Conference, which will be taking place in Johannesburg at Emperors Palace on 8 March, we will be discussing the future of the workplace and how labour legislation needs to change. Follow this link to sign up.

Kind regards,


Johnny and Grant