While no longer the near-monolithic face of global ride-hailing services, Uber is still a multinational company with a great reach and a major pillar of the international “gig economy.” That last part has also been the source of much flak directed at Uber, particularly at the arrangement it has with drivers doing ride-hailing under their name. Since the beginning, Uber drivers have been classified as independent contractors rather than employees, which both give them working flexibility while also not giving them formal employment benefits. Several countries have taken Uber Technologies Inc. to court over the issue, among them the UK.
TechCrunch reports that Uber has agreed to classify its drivers in the United Kingdom as workers, with all the benefits that entails. The company announced this on Tuesday, March 16, just about a month after they lost their appeal to the British Supreme Court regarding a case filed since 2016 regarding the designation of Uber drivers. While “workers” is still a step down from being regarded as actual employees, this new designation will have Uber provide for their drivers a minimum wage, holiday with pay, and even a pension plan. These and other benefits are to become effective March 17.
The 2016 case that led to this decision was filed by Uber drivers complaining that despite being independent contractors, the amount of control the company had over their daily work activities was similar to being outright employed; thus they might as well gain employment benefits out of it. Uber would fight the case, lose, and appeal repeatedly until the Supreme Court itself ruled in favor of the drivers this February 2021. The ride-hailer’s argument was that the rigid classification of workers removes from them the freedom to work as they wanted, and that any benefits must go hand-in-hand with flexibility.
Meanwhile, at Uber’s home in California, drivers for them and similar services such as Lyft and DoorDash are back to being classified as independent contractors following the November 2020 passage of Proposition 22. Uber is now pushing for similar legislation in the European Union. While the UK might not be affected on account of Brexit, this is still a matter of concern that might undo the drivers’ recent court victory.
Image courtesy of NY Times