[UK] Supreme Court rules Uber drivers are workers not self-employed

[UK] Supreme Court rules Uber drivers are workers not self-employed
19 Feb 2021

The UK's Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers must be treated as workers rather than self-employed, BBC News reports.

The ruling could give thousands of Uber drivers entitlement to both the minimum wage and holiday pay. It is a decision which could potentially leave Uber with a significant compensation bill and have broader implications for the gig economy.

Uber reportedly said the ruling centred on a small number of drivers and claimed it had since made changes to its business. As part of a long-running legal battle, Uber appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds.

The ride-hailing app is facing challenges by its drivers in multiple countries over whether they should be classed as workers or as self-employed.

In California, this past November, voters passed a measure called Proposition 22, overturning a landmark labour law passed in 2019. Under Proposition 22, freelance workers continue to be classified as independent contractors.

Speaking to the BBC, former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam - the drivers who originally won an employment tribunal against the ride-hailing app in October 2016 - said they were "thrilled and relieved" by the ruling. (Links via original reporting) 

"I think it's a massive achievement in a way that we were able to stand up against a giant," Mr Aslam - president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) - said.

"We didn't give up and we were consistent - no matter what we went through emotionally or physically or financially, we stood our ground."

Uber appealed against the employment tribunal decision but the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ruling in November 2017. Uber then took the case to the High Court, which upheld the ruling again in December 2018.

The Supreme Court is Britain's highest court, and it has the final say on legal matters. The Friday ruling was Uber's last appeal.

Lord Leggatt said, when delivering his judgement, that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber's appeal that it was an intermediary party and stated that drivers should be considered to be working not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.

The court considered several elements in its judgement:

  • Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn
  • Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them
  • Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides
  • Uber monitors a driver's service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve

Looking at these and other factors, the court determined that drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber where the only way they could increase their earnings would be to work longer hours.

Source: BBC News

The UK's Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers must be treated as workers rather than self-employed, BBC News reports.

The ruling could give thousands of Uber drivers entitlement to both the minimum wage and holiday pay. It is a decision which could potentially leave Uber with a significant compensation bill and have broader implications for the gig economy.

Uber reportedly said the ruling centred on a small number of drivers and claimed it had since made changes to its business. As part of a long-running legal battle, Uber appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds.

The ride-hailing app is facing challenges by its drivers in multiple countries over whether they should be classed as workers or as self-employed.

In California, this past November, voters passed a measure called Proposition 22, overturning a landmark labour law passed in 2019. Under Proposition 22, freelance workers continue to be classified as independent contractors.

Speaking to the BBC, former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam - the drivers who originally won an employment tribunal against the ride-hailing app in October 2016 - said they were "thrilled and relieved" by the ruling. (Links via original reporting) 

"I think it's a massive achievement in a way that we were able to stand up against a giant," Mr Aslam - president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) - said.

"We didn't give up and we were consistent - no matter what we went through emotionally or physically or financially, we stood our ground."

Uber appealed against the employment tribunal decision but the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ruling in November 2017. Uber then took the case to the High Court, which upheld the ruling again in December 2018.

The Supreme Court is Britain's highest court, and it has the final say on legal matters. The Friday ruling was Uber's last appeal.

Lord Leggatt said, when delivering his judgement, that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber's appeal that it was an intermediary party and stated that drivers should be considered to be working not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.

The court considered several elements in its judgement:

  • Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn
  • Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them
  • Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides
  • Uber monitors a driver's service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve

Looking at these and other factors, the court determined that drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber where the only way they could increase their earnings would be to work longer hours.

Source: BBC News

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