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December 22, 2021
Jack Gibbs rounds up the most influential cases of 2021.

Uber BV v Aslam [2021] UKSC 5

In 2016, a group of Uber drivers commenced proceedings at the employment tribunal regarding their employment status. The Supreme Court initially drew a distinction between “workers” under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and “self-employed/independent contractors.”

The unanimous decision that they were in fact “workers” took into account five key factors, one of which was that the drivers did not have control of their own fees – these were imposed by Uber, through the app. The court’s decision emphasises the importance of worker protection, having a massive impact on the gig economy.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

On 1st December this year, the Supreme Court is set to hear one of the most significant abortion cases in years. This case concerns the constitutionality of a Mississippi law which prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (with the exception of medical or fetal abnormalities). The key concern is whether the court will overturn the case of Roe v Wade (1973) which establishes the constitutional right that individuals have to terminate pregnancy before a fetus can survive outside of the womb.

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Devon Partnership NHS Trust v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Devon Partnership NHS Trust sought a declaration as to whether the requirement in S.12 (1) Mental Health Act 1983 (that a medical practitioner must have “personally examined” a patient before completing a medical recommendation) and the s.11(5) requirement that an Approved Mental Health Professional must have “personally seen” the patient before making an application could be achieved by a remote assessment.

The court held that “personally examined” and “personally seen” meant that physical attendance was required in assessing mental health, acknowledging that any arising difficulties must be addressed by Parliament.

HRH The Duchess of Sussex v Associated Newspapers Limited

In 2018, the Duchess of Sussex wrote a letter to her father, which later became public when mentioned in a US magazine. In 2019, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline published an article containing the letter, prompting legal proceedings.

The court held that the Duchess of Sussex had a reasonable expectation of privacy with regards to the information detailed in the letter, which was disclosed in a manifestly excessive and therefore unlawful way. The interference with freedom of expression was a necessary and proportionate means of pursuing the legitimate aim of protecting the claimant’s privacy.

R (Good Law Project & others) v Secretary of State (SoS) for Health and Social Care [2021]

This year, the government’s transparency guidance concerning the awarding of goods and services contracts during Covid-19 was challenged under reg. 50 Public Contracts Regulations 2015. This provision makes clear that the SoS is obliged to publish details of any contract no later than 30 days after it has been awarded, serving a vital public function which is no less important during a pandemic.

Where Government decisions lack transparency and are not held accountable, this greatly threatens the rule of law.

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