Uber drivers officially recognized as ’employees’ rules UK Supreme Court

This week the UK Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling in May that Uber drivers are legally classed as workers and must be treated as such.  

The court ruled that it is unlawful for a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) Operator to act as an ‘agent’ between the driver and passenger, meaning that all operators must contract directly with both drivers and riders. 

What’s the importance of being classified as an Uber employee? 

Being classified as an employee gives you a range of rights unavailable to ‘gig economy’ casual workers. These typically include:

  • National minimum mage
  • A statutory minimum level of paid holiday
  • Protection against deductions from pay
  • Protection against discrimination
  • Whistleblower protection
  • A notice period for retrenchments

The App Drivers and Couriers Union note that the ruling also brings important new safety protections to consumers and the possibility for redress.

In May, UK worker union GMB announced a groundbreaking trade union recognition deal with Uber. By classifying drivers as employees, not independent contractors, “employees” have the right to form and join unions. 

According to Mick Rix, National Officer at GMB:

This agreement shows gig economy companies don’t have to be a “wild west” on the untamed frontier of employment rights.

When tech private hire companies and unions work together like this, everyone benefits – bringing dignified, secure employment back to the world of work. We now call on all other operators to follow suit.

This follows the Uber ban in Brussels

In November, Uber was forced to halt all operations in Brussels following a ruling issued by the city’s Court of Appeal.

The ruling meant that Uber drivers could no longer use their smartphones to arrange rides in Brussels. This effectively stops Uber app rides. Uber had been renting cars with drivers to bypass an earlier ban on its low-cost UberPop service.

The company has previously struggled to maintain its legal presence in the Netherlands,  Germany, and Italy.  

However, it’s unlikely being employees will save all

Ultimately, we still have the phenomenon of big companies with loads of money finding ways to thwart worker rights. A key example is Gorillas

Founded in May 2020, ​​Gorillas launched a platform in Berlin that promises to deliver groceries within ten minutes. Workers are based at a warehouse and use an ebike to deliver groceries nearby. Workers are contracted and receive an hourly wage (including waiting time) and customers’ tips.