Uber drivers are employees — not freelancers, British tribunal rules


Uber has faced many legal challenges in markets from a number of opponents. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Britain’s more than 40,000 Uber drivers are entitled to sick days, vacation and other benefits, a labour tribunal said in a ruling the ride-hailing company says it will appeal.

The Central London Employment Tribunal ruled Friday that Uber drivers are employees of the Silicon Valley company, not self-employed people. As such, they are entitled to a minimum wage and other protections under the country’s labour laws.

“Uber drivers often work very long hours just to earn enough to cover their basic living costs,” said Nigel Mackay, the attorney from law firm Leigh Day who is representing two workers who brought forward the case. 

One of them, James Farrar, said in August 2015 he earned less than the 6.70 pounds ($10.91 Canadian) an hour that is the minimum wage in Britain for those aged 21 and older.

“It is the work carried out by these drivers that has allowed Uber to become the multi-billion-dollar global corporation it is,” Mackay said.

“We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the national minimum wage and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them,” he said.

The tribunal rejected Uber’s argument that everyone who signs up for the service is an independent contractor. The company has faced similar lawsuits in other jurisdictions.

“The Uber driver’s working time starts as soon as he is within his territory, has the app switched on and is ready and willing to accept trips and ends as soon as one or more of those conditions ceases to apply,” the tribunal said in its ruling.

Uber, for its part, says it will appeal the ruling. But the landmark case has the potential to impact millions of other workers in the so-called “gig economy.”