Uber and other gig-economy companies have been fighting off efforts around the world to classify workers as employees, with mixed success.
In France, Uber lost a decision in the country’s top court last year that a driver had the right to be considered an employee. In Germany, Italy and Spain, disputes about Uber’s labor practices have also raised alarms, especially within traditional taxi businesses, limiting its availability.
But in California, Uber and other companies funded a successful ballot measure in the November election to exempt them from a law that would have required them to employ drivers and pay health care, unemployment insurance and other benefits. More battles loom in Washington and state capitals about how to classify workers for Uber and other platforms.
While Britain has been one of the company’s most important markets, it has also been a source of legal trouble. In London, where Uber cars are as ubiquitous as traditional black cabs, the city transportation regulator has twice taken steps to revoke Uber’s taxi license in recent years before the company agreed to new safety policies.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, cheered the decision.
“It is a landmark decision for people who suffer from low pay and a lack of security at work,” he said in a statement. “Gig economy workers deserve the same rights as other workers.”
Uber fought the effort by drivers in Britain to be classified as workers for the past five years, appealing the decision all the way to the country’s top court. The ruling on Friday is expected to initially affect only the 25 drivers who brought the case, but is seen as setting a precedent for the 60,000 other Uber drivers across the country.
The ruling will now be referred to an employment tribunal, an administrative court that will decide in the next few months how to reward the drivers and how the ruling will affect other drivers going forward.