Uber drivers win labour rights in UK Supreme Court victory
A landmark Supreme Court ruling in the UK has declared that Uber drivers there are no longer to be classified as self-employed, but rather as workers entitled to a £10.85 minimum wage, vacation time, and pension rights.
The decision makes the UK the first country in the world to successfully demand that Uber give its drivers these basic labour rights, according to De Standaard.
The ruling affects over 70,000 UK drivers for the American-based corporate giant, which has faced strong criticism in Belgium for its employment practices that leave 2,000 drivers in Brussels without these same rights.
After five years of opposition and appeals to the changes, Uber is now calling the Supreme Court decision an “important day” for British drivers – with the caveat that UberEats couriers will remain self-employed.
Critics point out that the ruling doesn’t give Uber drivers the full and complete rights that a traditional “permanent employee” gets, but instead places their status somewhere in between that and self-employed, in a category known as “worker” in the UK.
Because no such category exists in other European countries that have similar issues with the American company’s labour practices, like Belgium, the only option in those countries would be for Uber to reclassify its self-employed drivers as regular employees, which would mean even more labour rights (such as parental leave, for example) than the British ones now have.
Another criticism is that the minimum wage only applies to the time spent actively driving people to their destinations, not time spent looking for fares, which accounts for almost a third of the hours that drivers spend behind the wheel, a previous study from the University of California Berkeley found.
“Being classified as a worker is not an end in itself,” tweeted Alan Bog, a professor of employment law at the University of Bristol, indicating that Uber’s compliance with the ruling remains to be seen. “The relevant question is – are the legal rights enforced in the real world in accordance with the law’s demands?”