UK Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling Classifies Uber Drivers as “Workers”

Seven Supreme Court judges in the UK unanimously rejected Uber’s appeal against a 2016 ruling that defined Uber drivers as “workers” under British law. Uber argued that the drivers who brought the claim against the company, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, should be classified as independent contractors.

When drivers are logged onto the Uber app and are willing to pick up customers, the ruling stated, they should be considered “on the job.” These hours would then be used to calculate a minimum wage and holiday pay. This is in contrast to Uber’s argument that drivers should only be considered as “working” when they are en route to pick up a paying customer.

“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,” Farrar told the Associated Press.

After years of working without the opportunity for vacation or sick days, drivers could now be entitled to what would amount to $16,800, and the case will now return to the UK tribunal for decisions concerning compensation and lost pay.

This new ruling has the potential to change the basic structure of the gig economy, not only in the UK, but in other countries as well, potentially leading to more claims against companies who operate with a similar model.

In California, Uber and its competitors evaded a similar ruling by funding Prop 22, which allowed them to continue to classify drivers as independent contractors. This week, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi published a white paper that encouraged the EU to adopt similar legislation.