Top UK court rules Uber drivers are entitled to minimum wage, paid holidays

A pedestrian checks a mobile device in front of the Uber Technologies Inc. headquarters building in San Francisco, California, U.S. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A group of Uber drivers are entitled to worker rights such as the minimum wage, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday in a blow to the ride-hailing service that has ramifications for millions of others in the gig economy.

In a case led by two former Uber drivers, a London employment tribunal ruled in 2016 that they were due entitlements that also included paid holidays and rest breaks.

Uber drivers are currently treated as self-employed, meaning that by law they are only afforded minimal protections, a status the Silicon Valley-based company sought to maintain a long-running legal tussle.

“The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses Uber‘s appeal,” judge George Leggatt said on Friday.

“The legislation is intended to give certain protections to vulnerable individuals who have little or no say over their pay and working conditions.”

A total of 25 drivers were part of the case and Uber said the verdict did not apply to all of its current 60,000 drivers in Britain, including 45,000 in London, one of its most important global markets.

“We respect the Court’s decision which focused on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” said its Northern and Eastern Europe boss Jamie Heywood.

“We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

Uber shares fell 3.4% in premarket trading following the court announcement.

Gig economy workers

The gig economy, where people tend to work for one or more companies on a job-by-job basis, has faced criticism from trade unions who say it is exploitative, while businesses say many of those working in it enjoy the flexibility.

It could still take several months for the details of Friday’s decision to be worked at a further employment tribunal hearing to sort through practicalities over sums owed to drivers, according to lawyers.

Law firm Leigh Day says eligible drivers may be entitled to an average of 12,000 pounds ($16,780) in compensation. It represents more than 2,000 potential claimants.

Uber has faced opposition from unions and challenges to its business model in several countries as it disrupts the taxi market.

In November, however, it saw off a challenge in its home market of California where voters backed a ballot proposal that cemented app-based food delivery and ride-hail drivers‘ status as independent contractors, not employees.

One of the two former Uber drivers who led the British case, James Farrar, called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to do more to reform the gig economy.

“I am delighted that workers at last have some remedy because of this ruling, but the government must urgently strengthen the law so that gig workers may also have access to sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal.”

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.