Starting on March 17th, Uber will classify all of its UK-based drivers as workers, reports The New York Times. While not full employees of the company, that's a distinction that will grant more than 70,000 individuals access to benefits like a minimum wage. In a filing with the SEC, Uber said it would enroll eligible drivers in a plan where the company will contribute approximately three percent of their pay toward their pension. It will also provide all drivers with paid holiday time at a rate of 12.07 percent of their earnings.
The decision comes after the company lost a decisive legal battle in February. Partway through last month, the UK's Supreme Court upheld a ruling that said Uber drivers in the country are entitled to the legal rights and protections afforded to workers. The case involved a small group of drivers, and at first it appeared Uber would resist attempts to force it to provide additional protections to its other drivers. "The verdict does not focus on the other drivers on the app, nor does it relate to couriers who earn on Uber Eats," the company said in a blog post on the ruling. However, in an op-ed published today in The Evening Standard, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said, "We could have continued to dispute drivers' rights to any of these protections in court. Instead, we have decided to turn the page."
It's not clear how today's decision will affect the company's stance toward worker protections in the future. Uber has historically fought hard to maintain the contractor classification that underpins its business model. In California, the company spent millions to support Proposition 22 during the 2020 election to skirt the state's AB5 law, which sought better rights and protections for gig economy workers.