Uber to give UK drivers workers’ rights after court defeat

Decision seen as blow to gig economy companies, victory for unions

Uber will give workers’ rights, including the minimum wage, from Wednesday to all of its more than 70,000 British drivers after the ride-hailing app lost a UK Supreme Court case last month in a blow to gig economy companies and a victory for unions.

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In a case led by two former Uber drivers, an employment tribunal ruled in 2016 that they were due entitlements such as paid holidays, prompting Uber to appeal all the way to Britain’s top court, which ruled against it in February.

Uber said at the time it would consult with drivers while lawyers said it could take several months for the details of the ruling to be worked out at a further employment tribunal hearing. Meanwhile more cases could be filed.

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On Tuesday, Uber said drivers would be paid holiday time, be enrolled in a pension plan and receive no less than the minimum wage, which stands at an hourly 8.72 pounds ($12.07) for those aged 25 years and over, after they accept a trip request.

“This follows the recent UK Supreme Court ruling, which provides a clearer path forward as to a model that gives drivers the rights of worker status while continuing to let them work flexibly,” Uber said.

Uber will give workers’ rights, including the minimum wage, from Wednesday to all of its more than 70,000 British drivers after the ride-hailing app lost a UK Supreme Court case last month in a blow to gig economy companies and a victory for unions. (iStock)

The Silicon Valley-based company said its drivers in London, one of its most important markets, earn 17 pounds an hour on average and the flexibility to choose if, when and where they work will be retained.

Uber has faced opposition from traditional taxi operators and unions have criticized the app for undercutting existing players, leading to protests and regulatory and legal challenges which have forced the company to pull out of some markets.

France’s top court in 2020 recognized the right of an Uber driver to be considered an employee while European Union regulators are considering new rules to protect gig economy workers.

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In October, a California appeals court ruled that Uber must reclassify its drivers in the state as employees but the company saw off the challenge after voters in November backed a ballot proposal, cementing app-based ride-hail drivers’ status as independent contractors.

In Britain, people classified as workers are entitled to fewer rights than those classed as employees, who are also guaranteed sick pay and parental leave.

Tuesday’s announcement could impact others in the gig economy, where millions of people tend to work for one or more companies on a job-by-job basis.

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“Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives,” said Uber’s Northern and Eastern Europe boss Jamie Heywood.