The long awaited Supreme Court decision in the Uber vs Aslam case – on whether its drivers should be classified as workers rather than independent contractors – has finally arrived. The question now is what the impact of this decision will be, both on Uber and its drivers, and on the gig economy more broadly.
The Supreme Court’s ruling addresses the crucial question of worker status in the gig economy, coming after 5 years of heavy debate on the subject and a string of failed appeals by Uber.
The question of whether someone is an employee, worker or independent contractor is important because each category attracts different rights and obligations. The arrival of so-called ‘platform work’ in the gig economy complicated the process of defining employment status due to the flexible nature of the work. In this case, Uber contended that the drivers were self-employed contractors and insisted that the smartphone app was a platform to connect drivers with app users and process payment.
The drivers that brought claims against Uber in 2016, seeking payment of the national minimum wage and holiday pay, were required to demonstrate they were workers or employees, rather than self-employed contractors in order to be eligible for these benefits.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the drivers’ favour, agreeing with the initial 2016 Employment Tribunal that the UK’s 65,000 registered Uber drivers are fully entitled to paid holiday and the National Minimum Wage. This decision will have a major impact, not just on Uber and its drivers, but also on all platform-based technology workers and other workers who are part of the growing gig economy.
It will be interesting to see how Uber responds in relation to their contractual arrangements and what impact it will have on its operations, and on that of similar organisations, across the UK.