back to article Switzerland says Uber's an employer, sends social security bill

Switzerland is the latest country to decide that in spite of its protestations otherwise, Uber is an employer – at least in public liability terms. It's only a single case, but public liability insurer The Suva has decided that a driver is an Uber employee rather than an independent contractor. The Suva is responsible for …

  1. RIBrsiq
    Holmes

    It will be interesting to see how this works out legally, of course. But it makes sense that someone needs to pay the social security obligations pertaining to any making a livelihood through Uber.

    1. bpfh Bronze badge
      Paris Hilton

      I is confused

      OK, I personally believe that once you sign up to Uber as a driver you are strung up to their terms and conditions that can be very restrictive, but shirley if you affiliate yourself with them as an independant, you have, at on a personal level, to pay state charges as an independant... that is after all their model...? No?

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: I is confused

        Or, to put it another way, "Once you sign a contract with X as an employee you are strung up to their terms and conditions that can be very restrictive" - that's the point - if they're too restrictive then you ain't an independent contractor, no matter what the 'employer' tries to say.

        And let's face it, independents tend to pay rather less in taxes than combined employer+employee - that's the loophole Uber are trying to wiggle through. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I is confused

          If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

          .. it'll get stuffed as a duck :).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I is confused

          " that's the point - if they're too restrictive " .... then don't sign them.

      2. Joseph Haig

        Re: I is confused

        Their model is that they don't want to have to conform to local laws that governments set up to allow businesses to operate on a level playing field because ... THE INTERWEBZ!!!!

    2. casaloco

      I'm pretty sure...

      I'm pretty sure that is already covered under the rules on self-employed workers.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Been there

      late '70's early '80's Europe was flooded with 'self employed' techs in the chemical and oil industries (and most likely in a lot of other places), a lot of them UK and Irish citizens, who didn't pay taxes in their country because they were 'abroad for longer than 6 months' and didn't pay it elsewhere because they were self employed and registered in another country than the one they were working in. Companies like MF Kent, Badger, John Brown (IIRC) employed them by the hundreds. Somewhere late 80's the taxman and social security woke up and hit them with very large back-tax bills.

      They all went under. Many filed for bankruptcy. Some disappeared to less prohibitive climes. The contractors fled, or the ones that had built a life in their guest countries were left carrying the can.

      I very much suspect we'll see something along those lines for Uber, AirBNB and all those 'service' companies in the not so far future.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Been there

        You make it sound like a problem.

      2. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Been there

        Most Air BNB run fowl of zoning laws and city rules that state you have have cert of occupancy before you can rent out.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Been there

          "Most Air BNB run fowl of zoning laws"

          Another one that quacks like a duck?

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: Been there

            Yep. Motels and hotels must be inspect and signed off by the fire Marshall for the amount of people that can be in there.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Been there

        "Companies like ...John Brown (IIRC) employed them by the hundreds."

        Full disclosure. It wasn't me, I didn't do it.

    4. wakero

      There are many countries that know the concept of a virtual employer/employee relation:

      If you are independent or a small company,. but have only 2-3 "customers", the tax authorities will assume you're an employer. This has been the case for all freelancers (typically IT people) since decennia in the Netherlands for example.

      This makes sense and is only fair. And the same rules apply to Uber, of course.

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      If you're in the States and an "employee".. you pay half the social security tax and the employer pays half. If you're a contractor... you pay the full amount. There's is an upper limit on the amount of wages taxed however.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        In the UK, the employer pays 13.8% of salary as NI contributions, employee pays 12%. If you are self-employed, you pay 9% of profit, after deduction of expenses.

        In situations where expenses are allowable as a deduction for tax purposes for an employee, they are not allowable as a deduction for NI purposes.

  2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    The Suva have a point

    It's not that dissimilar to the old IR35 arguments that we had. Basically if you are told exactly what to do, where and when then you're an employee. For heaven's sake, one place I worked we had 'contractors' who had worked there full time for seven years and played for the company football team!!

    If Uber simply set some minimum standards, and allowed drivers to bid for a job at a rate the driver offered, when they felt like doing a job, then they might get away with it. No wonder they're looking at autonomous cars! (Although what's the betting they attract a special tax levy - I seem to remember that in the early days of motor cars that employers paid a tax on chauffeurs)

    1. casaloco

      eh?

      "If Uber simply set some minimum standards, and allowed drivers to bid for a job at a rate the driver offered, when they felt like doing a job, then they might get away with it" - isn't that effectively what Uber do... maybe I misunderstand... I thought the point was Uber set the rates based on demand and drivers chose to work when rates reach a level of interest? I though Uber drivers didn't have fixed hours, and could reject jobs if they wanted to? Has the way it works changed?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: eh?

        "I though Uber drivers didn't have fixed hours, and could reject jobs if they wanted to?"

        That's what they'd have you believe, but the tribunal in the UK proved pretty conclusively otherwise, including little facts like:

        1) There is a formal disciplinary process routinely applied to drivers by Uber

        2) Failing to clock up enough hours will lead to this process

        3) Clocking on but not taking jobs will lead to this process

        It's these three facts together with a bunch of others (e.g. Uber set the list of allowed vehicles, recruit through advertisement/interview/induction, set the route and ban alternatives, set the fare and ban negotiation of the fare) that damned Uber here in the UK. I would imagine it is set up exactly the same in other countries.

        Paragraph 92 of the relevant judgement. It's a good read.

        https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/aslam-and-farrar-v-uber-reasons-20161028.pdf

      2. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: eh?

        Uber drivers can not turn down rides. I have had them ask me to cancel the ride because the are not going to make any money off it.

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: eh?

        Take Kabee for example. If you search for a cab via them, you will get a list of quotes from different local minicab companies, and you can pick the one you want. Kabee doesn't set the prices, the cab companies decide what they want to charge. Über however decide on a price and decide which driver to allocate the job to.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Suva have a point

      "It's not that dissimilar to the old IR35 arguments that we had. Basically if you are told exactly what to do, where and when" and get holiday pay, sick pay, pension, and all other employee rights "then you're an employee." Otherwise you are not.

      FTFY

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: The Suva have a point

        No, the definition of employment is the control and contract elements. The rest are entitlements which the employer must give you. Employers would like to avoid this.

    3. wayward4now
      Childcatcher

      Re: The Suva have a point

      UBER doesn't dictate working hours though. The "contractor" works when they damn well please. Ergo, not an employee.

  3. Nick Kew Silver badge
    WTF?

    EPARSE

    In one paragraph, the Suva is both

    (a) a public liability insurer, and

    (b) responsibility for statutory worker's health care and accident compensation coverage.

    Not an exact analogy, but that sounds rather like confusing IR35 with Legal&General. Or something.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EPARSE

      I think that SUVA has misgiving about insuring people as independents when they are not. They're a non-profit, so there's no win for them to further what it perceives as Uber's abuse of employment law..

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Switzerland is not worth it for Uber.

      That said, self-driving cars are the future - but it might come as a surprise to Uber et al when Ford, Honda, et cetera, start running automated taxi services with their own fleets, rather than letting Uber do it.

      Personally I doubt we'll ever get true fully autonomous full authority self driving cars, not with the roads as they are and the shared usage of them (bikes, horses, etc). Google are running away from the idea, Apple too, can't see anyone else pulling off a significant development.

      I think the car manufacturers are indeed covering moves by Google, Uber etc. The difference is if they don't quite make it they'll still probably end up with something useful. Google, Uber won't - they've not got a foothold in making cars.

      1. HamsterNet

        Re: Switzerland is not worth it for Uber.

        Humans should not be allowed to drive cars. We are all to reckless, to fallible and far far to slow to comprehend what's occurring.

        Machines will drive for us and much more. Its just a matter of stating yes to both of these questions. 1) Will technology continue to advance at any rate? 2) Does cognition go beyond the human level?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. wayward4now
          Linux

          Re: Switzerland is not worth it for Uber.

          Oh! You mean trolleys will be the wave of the future?! I can't wait. Get rid of all cars while we're at it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Sharing Economy" compaines make money by...

    not paying the same level of taxes that traditional companies pay. They leach from everyone and try to justify it by giving a small proportion back to their thithed workers and their end users.

    If all companies stop paying taxes it's going to get awfully bumpy in Uber's non-taxis.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect Uber will lose this one

    Swiss law is about the intent of law, not the letter so Uber is not going to get away with some clever rephrasing of existing law, and Switzerland has an increasing number of fine structures that are means tested (see, for instance, their drink driving penalties) so it may end up being rather painful for them.

    There is, however, always the option of deciding not to operate in a country, but I suspect that the more legal cases they lose the more precedent they create for losing even more. Not that I think for one minute that such will prompt them to do the right thing, but it'll be interesting to watch.

  7. Bob Rocket

    Contractor or employee

    If I can send a substitute driver on an Uber job then it is a contract, if not then it is employment.

    If Uber thinks it is going to make money when autonomous vehicles become available then it is delusional.

    The idea that we won't own our own vehicles is a ridiculous notion, car ownership will rocket.

    There are four main reasons why people use public transport

    unable/dislike to drive at all

    unable/dislike to drive long distances

    unable to park at destination

    temporarily incapable of driving

    Self driving cars solve for all four, no one uses public transport for fun.

    Door to door commute times will be lower for autonomous vehicles versus public transport.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Contractor or employee

      I'd add:

      Don't get sufficient use from a car to avoid the exhaust rusting etc

      Nowhere to park at $HOME

      Want to drink alcohol and/or read

    2. HamsterNet

      Re: Contractor or employee

      But why own your own car?

      When you can simply app one to appear, fully charged, take you to your destination and it goes off to another job. Will be far cheaper than ownership.

      This is the world Uber is making.

    3. HamsterNet

      Re: Contractor or employee

      But why own your own autonomous car? When you can simply app one that will arrive fully charged, take you to your designation and then go off to another job.

      If you do own your own Autonomous car, why not let Uber borrow it and make some money for you whilst you are not using it?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Contractor or employee

        If you're willing to share a car with strangers who have ridden in it before you and pissed on the seats or left it smelling like someone died inside, then you should be more willing to use public transport. At least there's room to move away from people who smell or are doing unsavory things, and a better chance of someone doing something about it.

        If the 'app you a car to appear' future arrives, it won't be Uber that does it. At least I sure hope not, because I refuse to do business with them out of principle.

      2. wayward4now
        Mushroom

        Re: Contractor or employee

        Because some a$$hat will wreck/trash the interior.

    4. Stork Bronze badge

      Re: Contractor or employee

      In exactly Switzerland I can see the reason for not owning a car. Public transport is really the 8th wonder of the World, safe, reliable. Ingvar Kamprad is a fan, but he also likes a tipple I've heard...

    5. lukewarmdog

      Re: Contractor or employee

      There are other reasons besides "fun" that you can use public transport.

      Those you provide are certainly not the four main reasons at all.

      Cost is one issue, my annual bus pass is incredibly good value. If I'm in a different city I often just buy the 3/5/whatever travel pass that city has. At home my pass covers weekends so when I choose to go out somewhere, it just gets better and better value.

      Environment is another one. I object pretty strongly to the number of cars driving around where I live so I bus. I could cycle and if there were less cars, maybe I will.

      Convenience is another. Very often I'm going into a town/city centre. I can bus in, do my shopping, meet friends, go to the cinema.. all the things you can do in a shopping area basically.. then bus back. I also use the bus to commute to work/back, there's a bus stop outside my house and one outside work pretty much.

      I'm not some kind of weird social introvert who is scared of public transport and the thought of having to sit next to someone.

      I think once we get past the autonomous car and start looking at autonomous buses, we might be on to a winner. We don't need more cars no matter who isn't driving them.

  8. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Re: Contractor or employee

    Will be far cheaper than ownership.

    That typically depends on usage as there is always a surcharge if you're renting. If you drive to work every day and depend on your car to get around during your own time, you are unlikely to see any cost benefit.

  9. nematoad Silver badge
    WTF?

    Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    "The UK recently made a similar decision, with its Employment Tribunal ruling that drivers are employees and entitled to the minimum wage, a ruling it said it would appeal."

    Eh?

    Do you mean to tell me that the government won a case and is so unhappy about it that it is going to appeal?

    Surely you mean Uber is going to appeal?

    1. Not That Andrew

      Re: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

      Considering how infatuated this government is with American so-called "tech" companies, that wouldn't surprise me.

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