NZ could follow UK’s Uber ruling – employment expert

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The UK’s Supreme Court ruling about the working status of Uber drivers could have major ramifications in New Zealand, an employment law expert says.

A man hand holding screenshot of Uber app in a car.

Photo: 123RF

The UK’s highest court has ruled that Uber drivers should not be considered outside contractors, but company staff.

The decision means drivers should be entitled to basic rights of employment.

Employment expert Max Whitehead said the Employment Court of New Zealand recently ruled against an Uber driver, who argued that he was an employee of the rideshare company.

Whitehead expects that case to be appealed following the UK decision.

“New Zealand law is based on the British system and particularly this government we’ve got now, it follows the British laws and are about to introduce law that Britain has introduced in regards to contractors as well,” he said.

“There is a strong possibility that the Supreme Court of New Zealand could determine that in fact these people are employees.”

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Whitehead said similar cases testing the employment status of Uber drivers are currently ongoing in Australia, Canada, France and the United States.

He said if the Supreme Court here follows its UK equivalent, the impact would be widespread across various professions.

“Massive, absolutely massive. Hundreds of thousands of people will be affected. A lot of people now [who] believe that contractors will then become transformed with a decision of the courts like this.”

Whitehead said it would also impact the public sector, which commonly used contractors.

He said there would be a significant economic impact if the court rules in favour of drivers.

“They could challenge whoever engages them and say in fact ‘I’m an employee now; can you back-pay me six years of holiday pay, can you back pay me sick leave I’ve had and all those entitlements, and I’m going to sue you now using employment law’.”

BBC News reported Uber had made changes to its business following the UK’s Supreme Court ruling.

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Uber’s New Zealand business has been approached for comment.

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