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Victory for Uber drivers as Supreme Court says they are workers not contractors

After the long-awaited appeal, Protect welcomes the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Uber BV v Aslam as a striking victory for Uber drivers in the UK – and potentially workers within the wider gig economy.

The Court unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal and upheld the first instance decision that Uber drivers are not independent contractors, but are indeed ‘workers’ for the purposes of basic statutory rights such as working time limits, national minimum wage and unfair treatment for whistleblowing. The case is crucial in setting out how worker status should be determined.

The Court looked at the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 which gives protection to vulnerable individuals in a subordinate and dependent employment position in relation to an organisation who exercises control over their work. The Court held that the ‘touchstone’ of that subordination and dependence was the degree of control exercised by Uber over the work of the drivers, identifying five factors such as the rate of pay dictated by Uber, which determined this control.

The Court also held that that a driver who logged on to the app was working even before a job was allocated to them, meaning they would be entitled to minimum wage for the time they remained logged on to the app. This opens the door for potential back-pay claims against Uber from drivers, as well as potential penalties from HMRC.

In light of Ubers reaction to the judgment, how they proceed in recognising the entirety of their drivers as workers remains to be seen. However, what we can take away from this significant decision is the impact that this will have on future worker status decisions – given the need to protect vulnerable workers – in widening the scope of individuals who have basic workplace rights, like whistleblowing protection, within an evolving labour market.

By Burcak Dikmen

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