The United Kingdom Supreme Court has today handed victory to Uber drivers in their six-year battle for worker rights including the right to earn the minimum wage and holiday pay.
Tens of thousands of Uber drivers can now claim the right to be classed as workers after the Supreme Court handed down its judgment today.
Uber claimed that drivers are ‘partners’ and so not entitled to the rights normally given to workers, such as paid holiday and the right to be paid at least the minimum wage.
However, the Supreme Court agreed with the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal that drivers are ‘workers’ rather than self-employed independent contractors.
In his judgment, Lord Leggatt wrote: “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 with Uber London whereby he undertook to perform driving services for Uber London.”
The Supreme Court reiterated the level of control Uber has over its drivers, including setting fares, not informing drivers of the passenger’s destination until they have been picked up, and using the ratings given to drivers by passengers as means of managing performance.
The hearing, which took place via video link on 21-22 July, was Uber’s final chance to argue that the claimants were self-employed ‘partners’ rather than workers.
The case will now return to the Employment Tribunal which will decide how much compensation drivers are entitled to.
Yaseen Aslam, co-lead claimant and App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) President, said: “I am overjoyed and greatly relieved by this decision which will bring relief to so many workers in the gig economy who so desperately need it. During the six years of these proceedings, we have watched the government commission and then shelve a review of the gig economy yet do nothing to help us. I hope in future the government will choose to carry out its duty to enforce the law and protect the most vulnerable from exploitation.”
James Farrar, co-lead claimant and App Drivers &Couriers Union General Secretary, said: “This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery. Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom. The reality has been illegally low pay, dangerously long hours and intense digital surveillance.
“I am delighted that workers at last have some remedy because of this ruling, but the government must urgently strengthen the law so that gig workers may also have access to sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal.”
Law firm Leigh Day, which represents more than 2,000 clients, believes Uber drivers could now also be entitled to an average of £12,000 each in compensation.
Lord Leggatt also said that courts should carefully scrutinise working arrangements to ensure that individuals are not denied those rights just because they are called ‘partners’ or ‘contractors’.
He explained that the purpose of employment legislation is to protect “workers from being paid too little for the work they do, required to work excessive hours or subjected to other forms of unfair treatment”.
Nigel Mackay, a partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “Our clients have been fighting for workers’ rights for many years, so we are delighted that the end is finally in sight.
“Already an Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal have ruled that Uber drivers are entitled to workers’ rights, and now the Supreme Court has come to the same conclusion.
“Uber has consistently suggested that the rulings only affect two drivers, but Leigh Day will be claiming compensation on behalf of the thousands of drivers who have joined its claim.
“For many of the drivers that Leigh Day represents, the claims could be worth thousands of pounds in compensation.”