Uber’s longstanding conflicts surrounding driver classification have not only affected the workforce in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom .. It’s become an example of how far-reaching employee classifications can stretch throughout the gig economy. A UK case involving Uber may shed light on what could soon become the norm in the United States.
The UK case derives from complaints from two former Uber drivers in the UK who alleged Uber was acting illegally by not providing them with holiday pay or minimum wage. Uber argued that it was providing a service to the drivers, whom Uber claimed were self-employed contractors.
The UK Employment Tribunal in October 2016 ruled that the Uber drivers should be classified as workers, a classification in the UK that falls between employees and self-employed contractors. Workers receive such things as holiday span itemscope itemtype=” http://schema.org/PaymentService”> pay , the national minimum wage and sick pay, but not all of the rights of employees.
In its decision, the tribunal found that Uber controlled how drivers provided their services to passengers, including dictating the fare and the route. As a result, the tribunal ruled that the drivers are workers and entitled to a guaranteed minimum wage, breaks, time off, and holiday pay. Uber appealed the case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which upheld the earlier ruling this past November.
Uber has said it plans to continue to appeal the ruling to higher courts.
Support for the ruling was clear. The Labour MP Jack Dromey told The Guardian: “No British worker should be denied basic employment rights which we have worked so hard to secure. Uber is a 21st-century company behaving like a 19th-century mill owner, when workers had no rights. It is now up to Uber to change its employment practices and grant its drivers the rights they deserve and are entitled to in law.”
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress , also told The Guardian: “This ruling should put gig economy employers on notice. Unions will expose nasty schemes that try and cheat workers out of the minimum wage and holiday pay. Sham self-employment exploits people and scams the taxman.”
While the United Kingdom has become quite progressive in a series of laws that protect workers’ rights in their gig economy, this ruling could be a sign of what is to come in the U.S. as Uber continues to face challenges over misclassification of workers in multiple U.S. courts. With 34% of the U.S. work force now estimated to be part of the gig economy, and that percentage expected to grow to 43% by 2020, companies may want to assess their employment policies and how they classify workers and contractors to be sure they are keeping up with the dynamic changes taking place in the U.S. economy.
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