Will the sharing economy strike the right legal balance between empowering and exploiting workers?

Proposed lawsuits by drivers working for ‘ride-hailing’ marketplaces Uber and Lyft have the potential to damage the emerging digital sharing economy. But if the companies’ existing employment practices aren’t dealt with adequately, the fear is that workers could be subject to serious exploitation. (

Helga Breen, partner and head of employment in London agrees that the stakes are high – and not just in the US as the cases will set a precedent around the world. She explains:

"Like other organisations in the on-demand economy, Uber and Lyft have very tight margins. So if costs increase, it would shoot a hole in their business model, which would be very significant, both for them and for other organisations that operate in the sector. Because this business model is predicated on low-cost alternatives to using employees, if they’re not allowed to do so, they’d have to rethink it -and it’s that consideration which is of concern to providers globally".

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This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Helga Breen

Partner - Head of Employment (London)

I am a Partner and head of the Employment team in London.