We have read a number of stories in the press recently regarding the “gig economy”. Is this a new term in employment law that we need to be concerned with?

Posted in : First Tuesday Q&A ROI on 3 April 2017
Julie Austin
McDowell Purcell
Issues covered:

The “gig economy” is a relatively new term which describes individuals who are described as self-employed and carry out work on a “free-lance” basis.  Examples include arrangements used by companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Hassle. It usually involves a service provided by one person to another, on demand, usually through an app or website with a commission payable to the host company.  

These arrangements have been the subject of scrutiny in the last number of months following a recent decision in the UK regarding the employment status of these workers.

The Uber decision

In Aslam, Farrar & others v Uber BV and Others [2016], the Employment Tribunal in the UK held that Uber drivers were not self-employed but were workers for the purposes of enjoying rights under certain employment legislation.  Uber drivers had argued that they were entitled to a range of benefits such as pension contributions as well as holiday and sick pay. On the other hand, Uber contended that these workers were self-employed due to the fact that they set their own hours and didn’t have to accept pickups. However, the Tribunal disagreed and found that the drivers were considered to be employees as, amongst other things, Uber recruited and vetted workers and undertook a certain degree of control regarding the service and payment. The decision is currently under appeal.

Ireland and the Gig Economy

There have been no decisions on the status of these arrangements in Ireland as of yet. When deciding on the correct status of workers in Ireland, employers need to tread carefully as any novel arrangements put in place may not fit neatly within the old contract for service /contact of service model.

Until the matter has been determined by the Irish courts, employers should continue to be mindful of the Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals which was published by the Revenue Commissioners and outlines the considerations that should be taken into account when determining employment status.

Back to Q&A's This article is correct at 03/04/2017

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Julie Austin
McDowell Purcell

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