UK rules: Uber drivers are workers, not self-employed

Photo: AP President of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) Yaseen Islam poses with a poster outside the Supreme Court in London

Uber drivers must be classified as workers rather than self-employed, UK's Supreme Court has ruled. That means tens of thousands of Uber drivers are set to be entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay, BBC reported.

The ruling could leave taxi app firm Uber facing a hefty compensation bill, and have wider consequences for the gig economy. In a long-running legal battle, Uber had appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds.

Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam told BBC they were "thrilled and relieved" by the ruling. They won an employment tribunal against Uber in October 2016. The ride hailing app giant appealed against the employment tribunal decision but the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ruling in November 2017. The ride hailing taxi app firm then took the case to the High Court, which upheld the ruling again in December 2018.

The ruling on Friday was Uber's last appeal, as the Supreme Court is Britain's highest court, and it has the final say on legal matters.

A key point in the Supreme Court's ruling is that Uber has to consider its drivers "workers" from the time they log on to the app, until they log off. Uber drivers typically spend time waiting for people to book rides on the app. Previously, the firm had said that if drivers were found to be workers, then it would only count the time during journeys when a passenger is in the car.

"This is a win-win-win for drivers, passengers and cities. It means Uber now has the correct economic incentives not to oversupply the market with too many vehicles and too many drivers," said James Farrar, general secretary of the of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU). "The upshot of that oversupply has been poverty, pollution and congestion."

However, questions still remain about how the new classification will work, and how it affects gig economy workers who work not only for Uber, but also for other competing apps.

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