Uber has lost a Supreme Court appeal against a landmark ruling which said its drivers were workers and not self-employed.
It has brought an end to a four-year legal battle and means drivers will finally be entitled to basic workers rights such as minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks.
The decision threatens the taxi app’s entire business model and holds broader implications for the so-called gig economy.
But it has been hailed as a ‘historic victory’ for Uber drivers, who are currently treated as self-employed, meaning that in law they are only afforded minimal protections.
Mark Cairns, an Uber driver in London for five years, said in a statement: ‘It’s been a long time coming but I’m delighted that we’ve finally got the victory we deserve.
‘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.’
Uber drivers celebrate as they listen to the court decision on a tablet computer outside the Supreme Court in London (Picture: AP)
Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam (left) and James Farrar outside the Supreme Court (Picture: PA)
An employment tribunal in London first ruled Uber drivers should be classed as workers in 2016 after two drivers successfully stated their case.
But it triggered a long-running legal battle with the Silicon Valley-based firm appealing the original all the way to Britain’s top court.
Uber operating companies, who said drivers were contractors not workers, appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds of the fight.
Lawyers representing the firm said drivers did not ‘undertake to work’ for Uber but were ‘independent, third party contractors’.
On Friday Justices unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal.
The ruling brings and end to a four year legal battle
One Justice, Lord Leggatt, said in a ruling: ‘I think it clear that the employment tribunal was entitled to find that the claimant drivers were ‘workers”
A law firm enlisted by the GMB union to represent Uber drivers says they will now be entitled to compensation for lost pay.
Leigh Day lawyers think tens of thousands of Uber drivers could be entitled to an average of £12,000 each.
A Leigh Day spokeswoman said the case would return to an employment tribunal, for decisions to be made on how much compensation drivers should get.
Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: ‘This has been a gruelling four-year legal battle for our members – but it’s ended in a historic win.
‘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.
‘GMB will now consult with our Uber driver members over their forthcoming compensation claim.’
Uber said the decision only related to a small number of drivers and it would now launch a consultation on the changes needed.
‘We respect the Court’s decision which focused on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,’ Uber’s Northern and Eastern Europe boss Jamie Heywood said.
‘We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.
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