Uber Drivers Are Workers, UK Top Court Rules

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 19, 2021

Britain’s Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled that Uber drivers are workers rather than self-employed, in a landmark ruling that may have implications for the rest of the gig economy.

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 through continued court action.

A London employment tribunal ruled in 2016 in favour of two former Uber drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, who argued that they should be entitled to workers’ rights such as paid holidays and rest breaks. After its appeals were rejected by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and later the High Court, Uber took the case to the UK Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court.

The court said on Friday that the six judges who heard the case “unanimously dismiss[ed] Uber’s appeal.”

Uber UK
Yaseen Islam, Uber driver and president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), poses with a poster outside the Supreme Court in London, on Feb. 19, 2021. The UK Supreme Court ruled Friday that Uber drivers should be classed as “workers” and not self-employed. (Frank Augstein /AP Photo)

The drivers were “rightly found to be ‘workers’” because, the judgement stated, “the transportation service performed by drivers and offered to passengers through the Uber app is very tightly defined and controlled by Uber” and “drivers are in a position of subordination and dependency in relation to Uber such that they have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill.”

The court also ruled against Uber’s argument that Uber drivers’ working time is limited to periods when they were actually driving passengers to their destinations. Instead, the court said their working time should include “any period when the driver was logged into the Uber app within the territory in which the driver was licensed to operate and was ready and willing to accept trips.”

Aslam, one of the drivers who brought the case and current president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), said in a statement that he was “overjoyed and greatly relieved” by the decision.

Farrar, the other claimant who now serves as ADCU general secretary, said, “This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery.”

Uber said it respected the court’s decision, which it argued focused on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016.

“Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way,” Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said in a statement. “These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.”

The Epoch Times has contacted Uber for further comment.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.