The Supreme Court’s decision means that Uber must now treat its drivers as workers. The decision means that Uber drivers can now get minimum wage and holiday pay, which they couldn’t before because Uber treated them as independent contractors. This means Uber wage claim of the drivers are supported by the Supreme Court.
The UK Supreme Court turned down Uber’s appeal against a landmark decision by an employment tribunal that its drivers should be considered employees who are entitled to the minimum wage and paid time off.
Six judges all agreed with the October 2016 tribunals’ decision, which could cost Uber a lot of money in compensation and make working conditions better for millions of gig economy workers.
Uber’s regional manager for Europe responded to the court’s decision by stating that the firm is “committed to much more” and that it will now communicate with workers in the UK. In a statement, Jamie Heywood said, “We accept the Court’s decision, which focused on a small subset of drivers using the App in 2016.”
Worker status Background
According to laws about employment, there are three types of people who work:
- Workers who have a work contract;
- Self-employed people who run their own businesses and do work for customers; and
- Employees who meet certain legal requirements.
According to the Employment Rights Act of 1996, a worker is someone who signs an employment contract or is hired under one. A worker is also someone who agrees to do work or services for another party to a contract who is not a client or customer of the person’s work or business.
The Decision of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court had to think about these two important things:
- If the Drivers were continuing to work under agreements with Uber and agreeing to do work for Uber, or if they were doing work only for passengers and under agreements by them through Uber just like its representative; and
- If Uber drivers were “workers,” when were they actually “working”?
But the Supreme Court said there are five things that show Uber has control over its drivers and that their relationship goes beyond that of a self-employed person:
- Uber decides ahead of time how much money its drivers will make, and the drivers don’t have much say over that money other than when and how much to work. The “service fee” that Uber takes out of a rider’s fare is also fixed.
- Uber gives its drivers written terms that they have to agree to in order to use the app. Drivers can’t really change the terms.
- Uber makes it hard for drivers to choose whether or not to take rides:
Uber manages the information that drivers can see on their phones, like a passenger’s average rating and the fact that the destination is only shown when the rider is picked up. Uber also keeps track of how often drivers accept or reject trip requests sent to them through the Uber app. If a driver’s acceptance rate is less than 80%, they get a warning letter telling them to do better and reminding them that when they sign in, they must be available and willing to take trips. If drivers turn down too many requests, their accounts may be locked for a while.
- Uber is in charge of the services its drivers offer:
Uber has a way for customers to rate drivers, which they do after each ride. Drivers provide their own cars, but Uber has a list of approved makes and models, requires that the cars are in good shape and not more than a certain age old, and specifies which colours they prefer. Drivers who have taken more than 200 trips and have an average score of less than 4.4 (out of 5) are subject to interventions to help them improve. If they don’t improve, their contract with Uber may be ended. Ratings are used as a measure of how well a driver does his or her job, which is typical of an employment relationship. They are not given to passengers to help them decide which driver to pick (much as when clients choose a service or product).
- Uber works hard to stop drivers from building relationships with customers that go beyond a single ride. For example, the app doesn’t let drivers and customers trade phone numbers.
The Supreme Court decided that the ET had to decide that the claimant drivers fit the definition of a “worker” when they logged in to the app in their area. This is because drivers had to be ready and willing to take trips, and if they weren’t, they were punished severely. The second point of appeal led to this conclusion. For the Minimum Wage Regulations of 2015 and the Working Time Rules of 1998, the time they were “on call,” or signed into the app in their area and ready to take a trip request, was considered working time.
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