The Supreme Court decision, which was unanimous among the six judges, brings to and a six year battle by Uber drivers to get employment rights.
The ruling could leave the ride-haling app facing a hefty compensation bill, and have wider consequences for other tech companies. After losing three earlier rounds, Uber had appealed to the Supreme Court to make a final decision.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, the employment tribunal will have to decide how much compensation to award the 25 drivers in the initial case.
“Uber are providing a transport service which is tightly defined and controlled. The drivers are subordinates and dependent on Uber to the extent they cannot improve or develop personally either professionally or entrepreneurially.”
Beverley Sunderland, Managing Director of Crossland Employment Solicitors
Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, who originally won an employment tribunal against the ride-hailing app giant back in October 2016, told the BBC they were “thrilled and relieved” by the ruling.
“I think it’s a massive achievement in a way that we were able to stand up against a giant,” said Mr Aslam, president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU).
“We didn’t give up and we were consistent – no matter what we went through emotionally or physically or financially, we stood our ground.”
James Farrar, the union’s general secretary, added:
“This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery.
“Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom.
“The reality has been illegally low pay, dangerously long hours and intense digital surveillance.”
5 reasons why Supreme Court supported employment tribunal decision:
- Uber sets the fare and the driver cannot charge any more, therefore Uber controls the rate of pay
- The contractual terms that drivers sign up to are imposed and not negotiated
- Drivers are penalised if they do not reach a certain level of acceptance or there are too many cancellations and if this happens a driver is logged off for ten minutes
- Uber has control over the delivery by use of a rating system and persistently low ratings sees a series of warnings and eventually drivers are no longer engaged by Uber
- Uber restricts communications between the driver and the passenger to prevent them developing any kind of business relationship