Uber drivers should be classed as workers and entitled to workers’ rights, the Supreme Court has found.
On Friday, six justices delivered their unanimous ruling against Uber operating companies in the latest round of a long-running fight between Uber and drivers.
Tens of thousands of Uber drivers could now be entitled to compensation for lost pay as a result of the ruling, which could amount to an average of £12,000 each.
Drivers will also be entitled to workers’ rights such as holiday pay, lawyers said.
One driver said he was “delighted” by the ruling. “It’s been a long time coming but I’m delighted that we’ve finally got the victory we deserve,” said Mark Cairns in a statement.
“Being an Uber driver can be stressful. They can ban you from driving for them at the drop of a hat and there’s no appeal process.
“At the very least, we should have the same rights as any other workers and I’m very glad I’m part of the claim.”
Another driver said he would now be able to have a holiday after years of working for Uber with no holiday or sick pay.
“I am very pleased,” Conrad Delphine told the PA news agency. “It means I can go on holiday without having to worry about how to pay for it.
“Things have been worse because of coronavirus. If we catch the virus we should be entitled to sick pay. It’s about time we had some decent pay and conditions.”
The latest ruling by the Supreme Court comes after Uber operating companies have already lost three earlier rounds of the battle.
In 2016, an employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers were workers and were entitled to workers’ rights. This ruling was upheld by an employment appeal tribunal and by Court of Appeal judges.
Speaking to Supreme Court justices at the virtual hearing, lawyers representing Uber said the employment tribunal ruling had been wrong, claiming drivers did not “undertake to work” for Uber but were “independent, third-party contractors”.
But on Friday morning justices of the court unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal. Lord Leggatt, said: “It can be seen that the transportation service performed by drivers and offered to passengers through the Uber app is very tightly defined and controlled by Uber.
“The employment tribunal was, in my view, entitled to conclude that, by logging onto the Uber app in London, a claimant driver came within the definition of a ‘worker’ by entering into a contract.
“I think it clear that the employment tribunal was entitled to find that the claimant drivers were workers.”
Lawyers hired by GMB union say drivers will be entitled to compensation for lost pay. A spokesperson at GMB described the win as “historic”.
“This has been a gruelling four-year legal battle for our members – but it’s ended in a historic win,” said Mick Rix, GMB national officer.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of three previous courts, backing up what GMB has said all along; Uber drivers are workers and entitled to breaks, holiday pay and minimum wage.
“Uber must now stop wasting time and money pursuing lost legal causes and do what’s right by the drivers who prop up its empire.”
A spokesperson at Leigh Day law firm has previously said that if Uber lost the Supreme Court fight, the case would return to an employment tribunal to decide on how much compensation drivers should get.
Nigel Mackay, a partner at Leigh Day, said: “Our clients have been fighting for workers’ rights for many years, so we are delighted that the end is finally in sight.
“Uber has consistently suggested that the rulings only affect two drivers, but Leigh Day will be claiming compensation on behalf of the thousands of drivers who have joined its claim.
“For many of the drivers that Leigh Day represents, the claims could be worth thousands of pounds in compensation.”
A lead claimant in the case, James Farrar, said the court’s ruling would have implications for others working in the gig economy.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
He added: “I am delighted that workers at last have some remedy as a result of this ruling, but the government must urgently strengthen the law so that gig workers may also have access to sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal.”
Another lead claimant, Yaseen Aslam, said he was “overjoyed” and “greatly relieved”.
“During the six years of these proceedings, we have watched the government commission and then shelve a review of the gig economy yet do nothing to help us,” he said.
“I hope in future the government will choose to carry out its duty to enforce the law and protect the most vulnerable from exploitation.”