Uber ruling – what does it mean for dentistry?

uber rulingAlan Suggett explores how the latest ruling on Uber drivers might impact the employment status of dental associates.

A Supreme Court ruling says Uber must treat its drivers as employees rather than self-employed.

According to NASDAL, the five key facts in the Uber judgement are:

  1. Uber controls remuneration – including the amount it pays drivers and whether to refund passengers
  2. Drivers have no ability to negotiate the terms they contract with Uber. Or the terms on which they transport passengers
  3. Once the driver logs into the Uber app, they have limited power over their operations, placing them in a position of subordination. For example, the driver doesn’t know the intended destination before accepting the fare. Uber can then log the driver out if their acceptances or cancellations are unsatisfactory
  4. Uber exercises significant control over the service provided to passengers. It also controls the information provided to drivers, and monitors its drivers
  5. There is minimal relationship between the driver and the passenger. This prevents the driver from establishing a relationship which benefits their ‘business’ as a driver.

HMRC guidance contained in Employment Status Manual ESM4030 Particular occupations: dentists states: ‘There are standard forms of agreement for “associate” dentists approved by the British Dental Association (BDA) and the Dental Practitioners Association (DPA)(sic).

‘These agreements relate to dentists practising as associates in premises run by another dentist.

‘Where these agreements are used and the terms followed, the income of the associate dentist is assessable under trading income rules and not as employment income.

‘In these circumstances the dentist is liable for Class 2/4 NICs and not Class 1 NICs.

‘The NHS General Dental Services Contract, which came into force from 1 April 2006, provides for less fluctuation in associate dentists’ income.

‘However, providing the associate dentist is responsible for paying their share of laboratory fees etc for work relating to their patients and other terms of the standard agreement are followed, the above guidance will still apply.’

Uber confusion

Alan Suggett, specialist dental accountant, believes the latest court ruling will create confusion amongst dental associates.

He points out that HMRC considers associates self-employed. But now also a ‘worker’ from an employment law perspective.

There is now concern over whether principals will become liable for maternity leave and holiday. This could drive associate pay down in the future.

‘The Uber case is more to do with employment rights obtained for the individual drivers as “workers”. This is a separate category within employment law, probably a hybrid between an employee and self-employed, rather than affecting the status for tax purposes,’ UNW employment tax partner, Lee Muter, says.

‘One of the quirky things about this is that the driver is still potentially self-employed for tax purposes. But a worker for employment law purposes.

‘So they potentially have the best of both worlds. They could obtain some valuable employment rights such as holiday pay. But also have the flexibility and other benefits associated with self-employment for tax.’


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