The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that Uber must classify its drivers as employees rather than self-employed contractors. Lawyers say the ruling means Uber drivers will be entitled to workers’ rights such as holiday pay and will have implications for the gig economy.
Uber operating companies, who said drivers were contractors, not workers, appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds of the fight but justices were quick to dismiss the case and rule in the favor of uber drivers.
A law firm enlisted by the GMB union to represent Uber drivers says drivers will be entitled to compensation for lost pay.
A GMB spokesman said officials would now consult with Uber driver members over forthcoming compensation claims. Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: “This has been a grueling four-year legal battle for our members, but it’s ended in a historic win."
Although the decision will directly apply only to the 25 drivers who brought the claim against Uber, it sets an important precedent for how millions of so-called gig-economy workers are treated in the UK. There are 45,000 Uber drivers in London alone, with thousands more working for the company across Britain.
The UK’s GMB trade union has hailed the decision as historic.
However, lawyers representing Uber operating companies told Supreme Court justices that the employment tribunal ruling was wrong. They said drivers did not “undertake to work” for Uber but were “independent, third-party contractors”.
But lawyers representing drivers said the tribunal was entitled to conclude that drivers were working.
Justices unanimously ruled against Uber.
An employment tribunal previously ruled in 2016 that Uber drivers were workers, and were entitled to workers’ rights.
“It can be seen that the transportation service performed by drivers and offered to passengers through the Uber app is very tightly defined and controlled by Uber,” said one Justice, Lord Leggatt, in Friday’s ruling.
“The employment tribunal was, in my view, entitled to conclude that, by logging onto the Uber app in London, a claimant driver came within the definition of a ‘worker’ by entering into a contract," he added.