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October Newsflash

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By Patrick Stewart

Whilst many people have been away enjoying the half term break, Judges have been busy! Two significant and interesting cases have been determined this week, both being very much in the public eye:

Firstly, on Monday the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal issued its judgment in the case concerning the bakers who refused to provide a cake to a gay man seeking it to be decorated with the words “Support Gay Marriage”. The bakers being devout Christians, believing that gay marriage is sinful, cancelled the order based on this belief. 

The Court held this to be discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation. The basis of the decision was that the reason why the order was cancelled, was that the message related to gay marriage and there was a close connection between that and the sexual orientation of the customer.

There has been some debate in the press as to whether the decision infringes free speech. The Court took the view that it did not as icing a cake cannot be taken to be an expression of personal support for that slogan, merely decoration.

The second case is that of the Uber drivers who were notionally self-employed.  An Employment Tribunal has today found that in a case supported by the GMB Trade Union, Uber drivers are “workers” within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is a status which is not as protected as “employees” but does entitle the individual to the statutory minimum, paid annual leave, rest breaks paid under the Working Time Regulations, protection from whistleblowing and most importantly, the National Minimum/Living Wage. 

This is a first instance decision and will doubtlessly be appealed, probably to the Supreme Court. As a first instance decision, it is not binding on any other tribunal but is indicative of the views of the Tribunal.  It will also be an interesting precedent for others working in the Gig Economy.

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