In what has been described as the “employment case of the year”, Uber drivers in the UK have won an employment tribunal case which ruled they are workers rather than self-employed.
The decision means drivers will be entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the National Minimum Wage. The landmark ruling could affect tens of thousands of other workers in similar roles.
Two drivers, supported by the GMB union, brought legal action against the private hire firm, arguing that they should be entitled to holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and breaks.
The Central London Employment Tribunal ruled in their favour on Friday 28 October, and the GMB said the outcome of the case could have "major" implications for more than 30,000 drivers across England and Wales.
Uber designates its drivers as self-employed workers, claiming it is a technology company rather than a taxi firm, and says the arrangements allow people to be their own boss and work flexibly. But drivers argue they are actual employees of the organisation, rather than independent operators running their own businesses.
"This is a monumental victory that will have a hugely positive impact on over 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for thousands more in other industries where bogus self-employment is rife," Maria Ludkin, legal director for the GMB union that represented the drivers, told CNN. Under U.K. law, they could even claim back pay for the period they've already worked for Uber, said Ed Marchant, an employment lawyer at IBB solicitors.
Uber has faced a string of lawsuits from its drivers across the world. Drivers in the U.S. have launched a class action lawsuit, accusing Uber of misclassifying them as contractors when they're actually treated as employees.
Lawyers for California and Massachusetts drivers in the case reached a tentative $100 million settlement earlier this year that would not change drivers' statuses, but would add certain protections and allow them to solicit tips.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says it’s an important step towards cleaning up the ‘gig economy’ (which relies on temporary, often low paid, workers).
“The GMB deserve huge credit for a shining light on conditions at Uber and winning this landmark action.
“This case has exposed the dark side of so-called ‘flexible’ labour. For many workers the gig economy is a rigged economy, where bosses can get out of paying the minimum wage and providing basics like paid holidays and rest breaks.”