The Central London Employment Tribunal's decision means more than 40,000 British Uber drivers will qualify for the national minimum wage as well as holiday pay, pensions and other perks.
The ground-breaking case was brought by two drivers - James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam – on behalf of a wider group who argued they were employees of the San-Francisco firm and not self-employed, as Uber insisted. Ultimately, the judges agreed with the drivers.
“The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous,” the judges said. “Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers … They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber’s terms.”
Experts claim the ruling will have wider implications in the UK, where companies with large self-employment workforces could now face increased scrutiny and legal challenges.
“This is a ground-breaking decision,” said Nigel Mackay, from the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, which represented the drivers. “It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.”
Mackay, it seems, was right as the ruling is already making waves on the other side of the world.
Ben Wilson, chair of the New Zealand Uber Drivers’ Association, says it’s reconsidering a legal suit which the organisation had previously avoided due to potential cost.
"When the likelihood of winning a case gets that much higher, then the expense becomes a lot more justifiable," he told TVNZ.
Wilson also revealed that the association has a number of disputes in the pipeline – “which will come out in the next could of weeks” – but confirmed it is not currently pursuing and employment law
case, although further action is being considered.
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A recent UK ruling which confirms Uber drivers are employees and not independent contractors is already sending shockwaves around the world, with some New Zealand workers questioning their employment status.