UK Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Uber Drivers Following 5-Year Legal Battle

Patrick Ritter
Trending Writer

The U.K. Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers must be considered workers rather than self-employed (Photo courtesy of New Scientist)

On February 19th, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers must be considered workers rather than self-employed, entitling thousands of Uber drivers to minimum wage and holiday pay, according to BBC News. The ruling requires drivers to be considered workers from the time they log on to the app until they log off.

This ruling comes after a legal battle that began in 2016 when Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam won an employment tribunal because, despite being considered self-employed by Uber, they were entitled to workers’ rights.

Uber then appealed against the tribunal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, then the Court of Appeal, and, most recently, the Supreme Court. They argued that they had long considered themselves a “booking agent” that “hires self-employed contractors to provide transport,” according to BBC. An Uber representative also made it clear to Reuters that their business model helps drivers conduct their business as best fits their needs. However, each court ruled that drivers were in a “position of subordination” due to Uber setting fares and contract terms that would require drivers to work longer hours to earn a better living.

The ruling puts the company in a difficult financial position. According to Bloomberg, the company will now have to compensate thousands of drivers to the tune of £12000 ($16700) each, not to mention $1.3 billion in unpaid taxes.

The ruling also comes in the same country as one of Uber’s biggest hotspots, London. According to Bloomberg, London is one of Uber’s most bustling markets, with 3.5 million people and 45,000 drivers using the app every 90 days.

Uber is not the only digitally employing app to face worker’s rights in the U.K. According to Eater London, the Uber ruling comes alongside an appeal by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) against a 2018 ruling by the High Court that forbids drivers for the food delivery app Deliveroo from collective bargaining because it too considers its workers as self-employed.

The fight for worker rights among Uber drivers is not limited to just the U.K. According to Reuters, several Uber drivers in South Africa are also going to court seeking compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay. This case could impact up to 20,000 drivers, but lawyers did not say explicitly when the case is going to be filed.

With the appeal against Deliveroo and the South African case against Uber, it is clear that the U.K. Supreme Court ruling is just the beginning of a drastic reshaping of gig economies everywhere, as tech companies and booking apps scramble to meet the needs of their workers who are taking legal action to ensure their rights as subordinates.


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