Uber Must Pay Drivers Minimum Wage, Provide Paid Vacation, UK Court Rules

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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The U.K.’s Supreme Court court ordered Uber to pay minimum wage and provide benefits like paid vacation to a group of its drivers in a decision that could set a precedent for all app-based workers.

The high court’s decision Friday applied to a group of 25 former Uber drivers, who argued they should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors, according to The Wall Street Journal. The ruling, though, won’t affect the vast majority of U.K. Uber drivers, who would need to challenge the company in court to receive minimum wage and other benefits.

“Drivers are in a position of subordination and dependency in relation to Uber such that they have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill,” said George Leggatt, a judge on the U.K. Supreme Court, according to the WSJ.

While the decision was narrowly focused on the group, labor activists said it could set a precedent for all app-based drivers currently classified as freelancers in the U.K., according to The Associated Press. (RELATED: Uber, Lyft Spend Hundreds Of Millions To Defeat Unions In California)

In this photo illustration a phone is held displaying the Uber logo in its app in front of a taxi stand in London, England. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

In this photo illustration a phone is held displaying the Uber logo in its app in front of a taxi stand in London, England. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

“This ruling will fundamentally reorder the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery,” James Farrar, one of the former drivers and a leader of the App Drivers & Couriers Union, told the AP.

But, Uber noted Friday that it has made a number of changes to its business since 2016, when the drivers who sued had worked for Uber.

“We have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way,” Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told the WSJ in a statement. “These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.”

On Monday, Uber published a white paper calling on European governments to “set a new standard” for app-based work. The company said drivers and couriers deserve a decent wage and access to benefits and protections.

“We believe a new approach is possible—one where having access to protections and benefits doesn’t come at the cost of flexibility and of job creation,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. “We need clear, progressive laws that recognise the value of this unique type of independent work and pave the way for better protecting it.”

Uber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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