A United Kingdom employment court ruled on Oct. 28 that Uber drivers are Uber’s workers rather than self-employed. As a result, the ruling clarifies that Uber drivers should receive holiday pay, minimum wage and rest breaks. However, because Uber drivers decide their own hours and control what they give as a service, drivers should be recognized as self-employed, contrary to the U.K. court’s decision.
According to the Legal Dictionary, the definition of employment is “a person who is hired for a wage, salary, fee or payment to perform work for an employer.” In the case of Uber, drivers are not necessarily performing work for an employer. Rather, the app itself facilitates self-employment for the Uber drivers. Uber drivers should not be classified as employees simply because they are not.
Moreover, Uber drivers should not be classified as workers because in June, Uber released a survey that showed how 68 percent of Uber drivers do not drive a set number of hours per week apparently because they prefer to set their own hours. Unequivocally, a majority of Uber drivers would not be able to adhere by a set schedule of hours, which would be the case if Uber drivers were seen and treated as employees. Classifying Uber drivers as workers may prove to be detrimental because under legal restrictions, the drivers would be obligated to take breaks and have exact shifts. This ruling may may compel some to stop driving with Uber.
Uber drivers should also not be seen as employees because if they were, Uber would have to fund the difference between drivers’ current incomes and minimum wage in addition to holiday pay and pension contributions. As a result, Uber would have to increase the cost of each drive, thus affecting consumers negatively. Any increase in price results in a decrease in demand, and if Uber drivers opted to leave Uber because of legally mandated schedule inflexibility, there would be a decrease in supply as well.
Clearly, the U.K.’s court decision was incorrect because Uber drivers should not be seen as workers. As a result, it is fortuitous that the decision does not have a widespread effect on Uber drivers today. The ruling only currently applies to the two people involved in the case. Additionally, the decision will especially not influence Uber drivers in the U.S. because the U.S. government does not normally use foreign courts to set precedents.
However, the U.K.’s decision could potentially influence policy in countries whose governments are structured like the U.K.’s, such as New Zealand. This influence can already be seen because on Oct. 29, the New Zealand Uber Drivers’ Association chairman Ben Wilson stated that the organization was considering taking Uber to court in order to have a similar decision made to give Uber drivers employee benefits. Wilson decided not to take the company to court solely because of the cost.
The U.K.’s decision could also interfere with company-employee relations in businesses similar to Uber, such as Deliveroo and other food delivery companies where people are self-employed with the help of an app. Future cases would take on the same mentality of employing their workers rather than leaving them to be self-employed.
Overall, the United Kingdom’s court decision will not necessarily have any concrete, immediate effects. It could potentially influence fellow companies and nations, but hopefully not because the decision itself was incorrect. Uber drivers are self-employed and should be given the liberty of creating their own schedule and job, free from any legal restrictions.