Uber loses case at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers are workers, not self-employed contractors.


The Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as workers not self-employed contractors.

The ruling, delivered today, came after Uber appealed a lower court ruling. It means that drivers will be entitled to basic employment rights, such as paid holidays and has significant implications for other people working in the gig economy.

The ruling has been welcomed by many. Yaseen Aslam, president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union, said: “I think it’s a massive achievement in a way that we were able to stand up against a giant.”

IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) says the judgement shows the “glaring need for clarity” in the gig economy and UK employment law.

It adds that the very fact this case has come to the Supreme Court shows “UK employment law is not working” and that to clear the confusion of the gig economy, the Government should introduce a statutory definition of self-employment.

The Association has also argued that in the financial strain of the pandemic, the need for clarity and for those who are truly workers to get their fair rights “is more urgent than ever”.

The ruling comes after it emerged that legislation intended to bolster protection for Britain’s most vulnerable workers will not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest. Whitehall’s newly departed employment tsar, Matthew Taylor, said there was a “deafening silence” from ministers on the landmark employment reforms, covering areas such as zero-hour contracts and the gig economy.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said: “The very fact this case has come to the UK’s Supreme Court shows the UK’s employment law is not working. There is a glaring need for clarity in this area, to clear the confusion in the gig economy.

“The gig economy is enormously complex, including many people who are legitimately self-employed and many others who really, based on their working circumstances, should be classed as workers. It is a patchwork of grey areas between employment and self-employment: the only way to resolve this tangle is to clarify employment status in UK law.

“With the pandemic still raging and its financial impact ever more visible, it is more urgent than ever that struggling people who should technically be classed as workers get the rights they deserve. To bring this about – and protect the freedom of legitimately self-employed people – we urge government to write a definition of self-employment into law.”

Kate Hindmarch, partner in Employment Law at Langleys Solicitors, said the ruling would have widespread implications for those working in the gig economy: “The implications this now has for a fast-growing form of employment could see more cases brought before employment tribunals, as workers demand back-payment from companies who have failed to meet minimum wage requirements, or holiday pay entitlements.

“While many businesses who operate based on the ‘gig economy’ have suggested that the self-employed status offers people more freedom and flexibility in their work-life, the court has noted how Uber drivers actually have limited control over a large amount of their employment agreement, including not having the ability to set their own price.

“The legal entitlement set out in employment law protects workers in the UK from exploitation by businesses and affords them a basic set of rights across the board. This precedent shows that, despite businesses’ best attempts to use contracts to create a loophole in order to waver their accountability, the courts will still rule in favour of protecting these employment rights.”

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