Welcome to The Lawyer Portal Monthly News roundup for February 2021. This month in a landmark case The Supreme Court found that Uber Drivers must be treated as workers, President Joe Biden called for the US to reform its gun laws, and the Government has announced proposals to introduce strengthened free speech legislation for higher education providers. Read about all of these cases and more in this update.
After three stages of appeal, the Supreme Court has ruled that the drivers should be classified as workers. This decision comes after almost five years of challenges. Two former Uber drivers took the company to an employment tribunal in 2016, where Uber argued that as their drivers were self-employed that they were not responsible for ensuring minimum wage or holiday pay.
In his judgement, Lord Leggatt stated that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal stating that drivers should be considered as working as soon as they log onto the app. In concluding that the drivers were in fact employees, the judgement focused on the drivers’ position of subordination to Uber as Uber controlled many aspects of their ability to work. This ruling, it is hoped by drivers, will lead to them being able to avail of some worker’s rights such as a minimum wage and overtime.
Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said that they respect the Court’s decision but that since then they “have made some significant change…, guided by drivers.”
In a statement released on the anniversary of the Parkland school shooting in Florida, President Biden also called for the introduction of background checks for gun sales, and an end to legal immunity for gun manufacturers.
House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi said separately to President Biden’s statement that Congress would reinstate background check legislation which was paused when Donald Trump took office.
A group of protestors who, in March 2017, wrapped themselves around a Home Office Boeing 767 jet chartered to transport people from UK detention centres for repatriation to Africa have had their convictions overturned.
They were convicted in December 2018 under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 however, the judgement ruled that the protestors should not have been prosecuted under this legislation as their conduct did not satisfy the “very serious” elements of the offences under this act and with which they were charged. The Barrister for the group argued that the act is intended to deal with violence such as terrorism not demonstration.
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This has been proposed after Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, warns of the “chilling effect” of students and staff being silenced and censored. The proposed measures include a new condition which must be met by higher education providers in order to for them to be registered in England and to access public funding. Moreover, the new measures would extend to Student Unions. Students would also be able to seek compensation through the courts if they suffer loss by breach of any of these new legal duties.
Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that failure to publish them in the manner prescribed was a breach of a “transparency” which was vital in this area to show how taxpayer money is being spent.
Government regulations require all contracts with a value of more than £10,000 to be published and sent for publication within 30 days of being awarded. However, research undertaken has shown that The Department of Health and Social Care had only published £2.86 billion pounds worth of contracts of the £15 billion pounds spent purchasing Personal Protection Equipment. Moreover, that the average time for publication of these contracts was in fact 47 days, missing the 30-day deadline.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told The Guardian that the contracts were awarded quickly to secure PPE during the pandemic and that the department “fully recognises the importance of transparency.”
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