The London Central Employment Tribunal ruled on Friday that a group of Uber drivers are 'workers' as opposed to being self-employed mini-cab drivers.
This ruling means that Uber's 40,000 UK-based drivers will be entitled to workers’ rights including to be paid the National Minimum Wage (and the national living wage), 5.6 weeks' paid annual leave each year, a maximum 48 hour average working week, the protection of the whistleblowing legislation, and are eligible for auto-enrolment into a workplace pension.
This first instance decision, while not binding, has potentially huge implications in the wider business context, the gig economy as currently structured and, specifically, to Uber. While the judgment is fact-specific, it is anticipated that it will act as a green light to others and that attempts will be made to apply this decision to many other scenarios. As a result, other gig economy companies are expected to find themselves defending claims that their self-employed contractors are indeed workers. Following this judgement it is understood that Unite will be setting up a specialised unit to pursue cases of alleged bogus self-employment.
Uber unsurprisingly immediately said it would appeal against the ruling. We should therefore be prepared for many months of uncertainty while the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and potentially the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, are asked to determine this.