Member of Bates Wells’ employment team

Rachel Mathieson

Who? Rachel Mathieson is a member of Bates Wells’ employment team.

Why is she in the news? Represents former Uber drivers in a significant ‘gig economy’ case. The Supreme Court has been asked to determine if Uber drivers are ‘workers’ rather than ‘self-employed independent contractors’, which would require the company to guarantee that drivers earn at least the minimum wage and receive holiday pay.

Thoughts on the case: ‘The case was heard (virtually) in the Supreme Court in July. Our clients’ case is that they have been mischaracterised as “self-employed independent contractors” and should be classified as “workers”, and so receive basic protections including national minimum wage and holiday pay. So far, the drivers have been successful at the employment tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, and it has been held that the real relationship between Uber and its drivers is that of “workers”. This is largely due to the level of control that Uber has over drivers and how they provide their services.’

Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe for Uber, said: ‘The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and over a number of years we’ve made significant changes to our app to offer more benefits with total flexibility. Drivers can determine if, when and where they drive, but can also access free AXA insurance to cover sickness or injury, as well as maternity and paternity payments.’

Dealing with the media: ‘As Uber is a household name and workers’ rights in the “gig economy” is an issue that affects an estimated five million people, there’s always been a lot of press interest. Last week’s hearing was no different – other than interviews having to be held remotely. I logged onto Sky News for a live interview from my living room, which was a bizarre experience! I have always found the media to be respectful of our roles as lawyers.’

Why become a lawyer? ‘My attraction to the law has always been about the people and client relationships you build. In particular, with employment law, adding human interaction to a methodical approach adds a degree of unpredictability. It certainly keeps life interesting.’

Career high: ‘Working on this case. I count myself as very lucky to work at a firm that allows and encourages us to work on cases which involve groundbreaking law and which are ordinarily impossible to work on when working in a City law firm.’

Career low: ‘Any times that have felt the most challenging and difficult to overcome have undoubtedly been the days where I have learnt the most. I always try to remember that when difficult circumstances arise.’