On Friday, Britain’s Supreme Court is set to give its verdict over workers’ rights at Uber in what could be a potentially landmark judgment with major ramifications for millions of people in the gig economy.
In 2016, in a lawsuit filed by two drivers, a London employment tribunal had ruled that they were entitled to rest breaks, minimum wages, and paid holidays.
Uber had appealed the ruling all the way to the Supreme court which is set to bring the case to its logical end today at 0945 GMT.
Currently, Uber treats drivers as being self-employed, which means they have only the bare minimum protection in law; also, from a legal perspective, drivers are not treated as Uber’s employees. The ruling can significantly impact Uber’s business model and attract major liabilities.
If Uber loses the case, it could still take months before the details are worked out following a further employment hearing at the tribunal, depending on the nature of the Supreme Court’s verdict.
“It would involve them working out exactly how many hours they worked, how much they got paid for those hours and identifying occasions when that meant that they were paid less than the minimum wage,” said Matt McDonald, a partner who specializes in employment disputes at Shakespeare Martineau, a law firm.
“As an administrative job for the courts, it’s a messy one,” said McDonald.
Uber has nearly 60,000 drivers in Britain alone, including 45,000 in London – one of its most important markets.
A verdict in its win would mark a hige win for it and would be a major boost to not only itself but also to many other courier, transportation, and delivery companies which use a similar business model, including Uber’s rival Addison Lee, a taxi driving firm and food service firm Deliveroo.