Uber drivers are workers – says the Supreme Court

A unanimous ruling, and a landmark judgement from the Supreme Court means that Uber drivers are now classified as workers. The decision will have ‘serious implications’ for the gig economy and comes after a long-running legal case.

Lord Leggatt summarised the judgement and dismissed the appeal made by Uber against the decisions made by the employment tribunal, the employment appeal tribunal, and the Court of Appeal during the case of Uber BV and others versus Aslam and others.

The ruling means that all Uber drivers will now be classed as ‘workers.’ This means that they are no longer considered to be self-employed as the company has previously argued.

Because the drivers are now classed as workers they are entitled to basic rights. These include paid holidays, rest breaks and the national minimum wage.

The Supreme Court made its decision based on the following points:

·      Had the drivers been truly self-employed they would have been able to set their own prices, rather than have Uber do this for them.

·      Uber sets out their own Terms and Conditions for using their service.

·      Should a driver cancel or not accept a ride they faced penalties, some of which prevented them from working.

·      Because of the rating system which Uber runs, they have significant control over the drivers. Should a driver fall below the accepted level they faced penalties and possibly even the termination of the contract.

·      So that drivers and passengers do not have a private agreement outside the Uber app, the company takes active steps to prevent this.

Lord Leggett described the relationship between Uber and the drivers as ‘one of subordination and dependency’ where the drivers have very little chance of improving their professional skills. Furthermore, they can only add to their income by accepting more work from Uber.

In 2016 two drivers, namely James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam brought their case before the employment tribunal. They believed that rather than be considered self-employed, they should be regarded as workers.

The men believed that during their period of work for Uber they were working under the National Minimum Wage Act 1988, the Working Time Regulations 1998, and the Employment Rights Act 1996. This entitled them to receive the minimum wage as well as holiday pay and other legal protections.

Uber countered this by stating that all their drivers are independent, third party contractors. They are not regarded as workers.

The tribunal found that while the drivers were working they had the Uber app turned on. They also only worked in the area they were authorised to work, and they were willing to accept assignments from Uber.

Both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal upheld this ruling.

At this point Uber appealed to the Supreme Court. Lord Leggatt commented that the courts were correct in ruling that Uber drivers are in fact workers.

Yaseen Aslam, the leading claimant said that he was overjoyed and extremely relieved to hear the ruling. It would bring relief to many gig-economy workers who desperately needed it.

GMB national Officer Mick Rix said that Uber now needs to stop wasting time and money in pursuit of ‘lost legal causes.’ They need to do the right thing by the drivers who ‘prop up their empire.’

GMB will be meeting with drivers to talk about compensation claims soon. A representative for Uber has stated that the ruling only pertains to the drivers who filed the claim.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court said that the laws including the National Minimum Wage Act are in place to protect the vulnerable workers form receiving too little in their wage packets for the amount of work they do. It is also there to protect them from working excessive hours or being subject to any unfair treatment.


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