The Supreme Court has now reached its decision on Uber’s appeal against the finding that its drivers were workers – and it’s not good news for the taxi app company.

Following several years of litigation in the tribunals and courts, the Supreme Court has agreed that the taxi firm’s drivers were, in fact, workers.

The original claim for worker status was initially lodged by two Uber drivers, who were subsequently accompanied in the proceedings by several other Uber drivers, all of whom were found to be workers by the Employment Tribunal in October 2016. Uber asserted that these individuals were self-employed contractors and appealed against this decision, both to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, but in each case its appeal was unsuccessful.

Uber subsequently argued in its appeal to the Supreme Court that the written agreements between Uber, its drivers and passengers (which specified that its role was to provide technology services, act as a payment collection agent for its drivers and to act as a ‘booking agent’) had been disregarded.

The Supreme Court however disagreed, and held that the reality of the relationship between the parties should be examined, and should not be bound by what the documentation says.

The case has been a very expensive one for Uber – estimated at over £100 million. It is now likely to have to treat its drivers as workers going forward or face further litigation. This means not just in relation to wages and holiday and sick pay, but also in respect of other worker rights, including protection from discrimination, protection for whistleblowers, and in relation to working time.

The Supreme Court decision has large scale ramifications for the gig economy generally, with many commentators suggesting that other businesses which operate in the same space as Uber, such as Deliveroo and Addison Lee, could be in the firing line next. There are an estimated 5 million people who work in the UK gig economy. For them it is a move in the right direction towards better workplace protections.

For further help or advice please contact, Senior Associate, Alexandria Evans, on 01904 561 444 or