Supreme Court Ruling Uber Drivers are Workers

19 April 2021

We explore what this ruling against Uber means for the gig economy 

After a long battle since the original Employment Tribunal win back in October 2016 and following numerous appeals from Uber (in the Employment Appeal Tribunal and then the Court of Appeal) on Friday 19 February 2021, which was Uber’s last appeal opportunity, the Supreme Court in Uber v Aslam made a ruling that Uber Drivers are workers and not self-employed meaning that thousands of Uber drivers are entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay.

The Supreme Court considered several elements in its judgment and concluded that:

  • Uber set the fare meaning they dictated how much drivers could earn.
  • Uber set the contract terms in which drivers had no say.
  • Requests for rides are restricted 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.

Taking these factors into consideration, the Supreme 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.

The Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as the earlier courts that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ meaning that they are entitled to claim minimum wage being based upon their entire working day, not just when they have a passenger in their cabs.  They can claim up to two years’ backpay or £25,000 (whichever is the larger) in an Employment Tribunal, and up to six years’ backpay in the County Court. Drivers are also entitled to claim 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year and have whistleblowing and other worker rights. Drivers will not, however, have employee rights e.g., to redundancy payments or to claim unfair dismissal.

Long term impact on gig economy workers

The ruling has wider implications for a lot of other gig economy workers like other private hire drivers, couriers and delivery drivers as the ruling focuses on the control that companies exercise over people's work and this control carries with it responsibilities for their conditions and wellbeing.

This case will set a precedent for future claims regarding people working in the gig economy making a claim to the employment tribunal.

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