Australia rules Uber drivers contractors for tax purposes

In a landmark ruling for the gig economy, an Australian court has ruled that Uber drivers should be treated as contractors for tax and employment purposes, rather than as employees, which could have repercussions in the UK, where the ride hailing company is fighting a similar case through the courts

In December last year, judges in the UK dismissed Uber’s appeal against an employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers,  with access to the minimum wage and paid holidays. The company is now taking the issue to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman has completed its two-year investigation relating to Uber Australia and its engagement of drivers. 

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that inspectors examined a wide range of evidence, including drivers’ contracts, log on and log off records, interviews with drivers and Uber Australia, ABN documents, payment statements, banking records and pricing schedules.

Parker said: ‘The weight of evidence from our investigation establishes that the relationship between Uber Australia and the drivers is not an employment relationship,

‘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.

‘Our investigation found that Uber Australia drivers are not subject to any formal or operational obligation to perform work.’

The investigation found that Uber Australia drivers have control over whether, when, and for how long they perform work, on any given day or on any given week.

‘Uber Australia does not require drivers to perform work at particular times and this was a key factor in our assessment that the commercial arrangement between the company and the drivers does not amount to an employment relationship,’ Parker said.

As a consequence, the Fair Work Ombudsman will not take compliance action in relation to this matter. However, Parker stressed that the investigation related solely to Uber Australia and was not an investigation into the gig economy more generally.

Pat Sweet

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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