Fairwork response to UK’s Supreme Court ruling over Uber drivers’ employment status

Posted on 19.02.2021
the Supreme Court of England,Wales and Northern Ireland showing the building and the badge.
Yau Ming Low /

After a long legal battle started by James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam in 2016, the UK Supreme Court has dismissed Uber’s appeal, confirming that drivers are workers rather than self-employed, and therefore, entitled to rights and protections such as minimum wage, holiday pay and protection from discrimination.

Today’s decision is a huge victory for Uber drivers in the UK, with potential implications for hundreds of thousands of other gig workers across multiple sectors. The Supreme Court has affirmed what Uber’s workers experience daily – that the platform exercises defining control over their livelihoods and working conditions. By misclassifying their drivers as self-employed for years, Uber has deprived them of the basic rights and protections that should characterise all work. This practice has disproportionately affected migrant and BAME workers, who make up a large part of the precarious workforce fuelling the UK’s platform economy. This decision is a significant step towards ending the misclassification of gig workers in the UK, but there is still a lot of work to do. We have seen Uber continuously introduce new strategies to circumvent labour laws in many countries. Earlier this week, we reported on Uber’s intention to push for Proposition-22-like regulation in the EU. It is crucial for regulators to anticipate potential responses which could further marginalise drivers, such as contracting with exploitative intermediaries and laying off workers.

While many workers in transport and delivery, care and domestic work, and other industries remain barred from employment protections and face insecurity and precariousness, this decision is testament to what is possible when workers collectivise and demand better. It is yet another sign that the tide is turning against unfair practices in the gig economy.  

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