Fact Service February 2021

Issue 8

Uber drivers win Supreme Court victory

Uber drivers are workers and must be treated as such, the Supreme Court has ruled. The judgment means that drivers are entitled to rights and protections including paid holiday, rest breaks and the national minimum wage.

The case dates back to 2016, when drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, supported by general union the GMB, first argued that they were workers for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Uber’s claim that the men were self-employed, independent, third-party contractors was rejected by an employment tribunal, a decision subsequently upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. Uber then appealed to the Supreme Court, where its argument has now been decisively refuted.

Responding to the victory, Yaseen Aslam, one of the original claimants, said: “I am overjoyed and greatly relieved by this decision, which will bring relief to so many workers in the gig economy who so desperately need it. During the six years of these proceedings, we have watched the government commission and then shelve a review of the gig economy. I hope in future the government will choose to carry out its duty to enforce the law and protect the most vulnerable from exploitation.”

Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: “Uber must now stop wasting time and money pursuing lost legal causes and do what’s right by the drivers who prop up its empire. GMB will now consult with our Uber driver members over their forthcoming compensation claim.”

The decision is likely to have consequences across the so-called “gig economy” both in the UK and beyond. European trade union confederation the ETUC said that major court rulings against the exploitative employment practices of platform companies showed the need for action by the European Union. The decision on Uber followed one by a court in the Netherlands against Deliveroo which ruled that the company’s food delivery riders are employees.