Uber loses battle as Supreme Court rules drivers are workers

Henrietta Strickland
February 19, 2021

Summarising the judgment this morning, Lord Leggett dismissed Uber's appeal against the decisions of the employment tribunal, employment appeal tribunal and the Court of Appeal in the Uber BV and Others v Aslam and Others case.

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Uber must classify its drivers as workers and not independent contractors, a decision that could deliver a major blow to the company's business model in one of its most important markets.

Uber is calling for companies in the sector to form a joint fund that would allow drivers who work for different apps to be able to access protections and benefits such as paid holidays.

A GMB spokesman said officials would now consult with Uber driver members over forthcoming compensation claims.

But voters in November then backed Proposition 22, a measure designed by Uber and other gig companies that would mean drivers remained independent contractors while receiving some benefits.

"We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the United Kingdom to understand the changes they want to see".

The drivers contend that, during the periods covered by their claims, they were "workers" for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The court ruled that drivers can be classified as workers and are entitled to rights such as holiday pay.

The ruling is set for Friday after a years-long legal battle, with the U.S. taxi and delivery company suffering court defeats in 2017 and 2018.

A law firm enlisted by the GMB union to represent Uber drivers says they will now be entitled to compensation for lost pay.

Then in 2018, the Court of Appeal judgement became Uber's third legal defeat on this issue. Rather, they are considered workers during the time they spend logged in to the Uber app.

But lawyers representing drivers said the tribunal was entitled to conclude that drivers were working.

"Today's decision changes the landscape for businesses operating in the gig economy".

"The employment tribunal was right to find that drivers are workers", said Nicholas Hamblen, a supreme court judge, as he read out a summary of the ruling on a court livestream. "It will shape all future cases concerning the gig economy".

'Uber can not appeal the decision further, so we may see the business looking to pass on its increased operating costs to customers using the platform. "As a business, it will need to reflect very carefully on the implications of the judgment".

The ruling could equally affect the online platforms behind the so-called gig economy in Britain - people doing short-term work without formal contracts, or working without guaranteed hours.

"The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of three previous courts, backing up what GMB has said all along; Uber drivers are workers and entitled to breaks, holiday pay and minimum wage".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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