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UK’s top court declares Uber drivers ‘workers’ in landmark case

  • February 23 2021
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UK’s top court declares Uber drivers ‘workers’ in landmark case

By Cameron Micallef
February 23 2021

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Uber must clarify its drivers as workers instead of independent contractors, which could have major implications for the gig economy worldwide.

Uber drivers

UK’s top court declares Uber drivers ‘workers’ in landmark case

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  • February 23 2021
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The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Uber must clarify its drivers as workers instead of independent contractors, which could have major implications for the gig economy worldwide.

Uber drivers

For years, Uber has claimed that drivers are self-employed, independent contractors and not workers for the company. 

However, the UK’s top court found that drivers were in fact employees due to Uber controlling remunerations of drivers, contractual terms and drivers’ choices about whether to accept requests for rides.

The court found that the drivers were “in a position of subordination and dependency... such that they have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill”. 

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“The drivers were rightly found to be ‘workers’,” the judges said.

GMB Union, who took Uber to the Supreme Court, said it was a historic win in the union’s landmark worker’s rights case against Uber. 

“This has been a gruelling four-year legal battle for our members – but it’s ended in a historic win. Uber must now stop wasting time and money pursuing lost legal causes and do what’s right by the drivers who prop up its empire,” said Mick Rix, GMB national officer.

Implications for Australia

Following Britain’s Supreme Court decision, Australian politicians are putting pressure to implement similar rules. 

Federal Labor has previously promised that it would change domestic industrial relations laws, which would allow workers in the gig economy to be paid a minimum wage.  

“We don’t really want people being held victim to a model,” shadow minister for industry and innovation Ed Husic told Sky news. 

“A lot of people have taken it up during the pandemic, with 50,000 sole traders emerging in the employment stats, which indicates people moved to the gig economy to get some sort of work in the interim.” 

“We need to be mindful of the conditions, safety with the workplace system and the laws around it to take into account new models emerging particularly in the gig economy.”

Victorian MP Rod Barton is also calling for domestic standards to be applied across the southern state.

“We have seen time and time again that Uber considers drivers not to be employees, exposing workers to unfair standards and poor review processes,” he said. 

“It is for that reason we ask: why is the Victorian government rewarding Uber’s poor corporate behaviour with access to the multimillion-dollar Multi-Purpose Taxi Program,” he said.

Mr Barton said considering the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruling, it is time for the Victorian government to step up, take onboard the judge’s statement and rationale, and protect Victorian Uber drivers from potential exploitation and unfair working conditions.

UK’s top court declares Uber drivers ‘workers’ in landmark case
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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

author image
Cameron Micallef

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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