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After a long and drawn out battle in the Supreme Court, Uber announced today that it will offer basic employment rights to its UK drivers—however riders and drivers for UberEats have not been included. The case itself dates all the way back to 2016, and focused on the employment classification of Uber's drivers. Uber argued they were 'self-employed contractors', with the courts believing they operated more similarly to part/full-time employees.
The decision by the Supreme Court means that Uber's roughly 70,000 strong driver-force will now have access to pension schemes and holiday pay, as well as a guarantee that they will be paid (at minimum) the national living wage. Uber will also begin the process of settling shortfalls in drivers pay prior to this decision in the coming days, meaning the decision may even benefit drivers for shifts they've already completed.
The news isn't all good for drivers, however. Moving forward, drivers will only be paid when they accept a trip request (and not while they wait for their next rider 'on the clock'), meaning there will be little room for earnings potential during non-peak periods. Uber was keen to reiterate that the minimum living wage guarantee would be "a floor, and not a ceiling", claiming that its drivers earn an average of £14 per hour across the UK, with London-based drivers taking home roughly £17 per hour as a result of the capital's regular surcharges and peak periods.
Immediate responses from key political figures have been generally positive. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented "We want to see a well-paid workforce, with strong worker protections, driving innovation and economic progress—and I think that's something we can achieve", with Frances O'Grady, general secretary at the Trades Union Congress, commenting that "this appears to be a big step in the right direction from Uber".
However, it wasn't all positive, as many lamented the fact it had taken Uber this long to improve its workers conditions, with some especially critical writers noting that this wasn't Uber's decision but rather the Supreme Court's, despite how Uber had tried to spin it to its customers through an email this morning. Sirin Kale, writer at The Guardian, commented: "Absolutely hilarious that Uber just emailed UK users spinning the news that they'll be paying their drivers the minimum wage as something they voluntarily introduced rather than a legal judgement they fought every step of the way, losing 3 legal rounds AND a Supreme Court appeal"
While we're yet to see the full impact of the decision, irrespective of your thoughts on Uber's willingness to make the change it should be an overwhelming positive for Uber's drivers, and could well lead to similar rulings for other drivers/riders across the UK, such as those working for Deliveroo or JustEat.
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