Uber gets chance to appeal 4 drivers' employment status

Tech giant says industry-wide standards should be enacted through legislation

Uber gets chance to appeal 4 drivers' employment status

Uber has been granted the chance to appeal a 2022 decision from the Employment Court that ruled four of its drivers were employees and not independent contractors.

The New Zealand Court of Appeals said in a decision last week that the issues stemming from the Employment Court ruling "raise questions of law in the context of new ways and fast-moving changes to the way in which work is done."

"In the context of Uber businesses with multiple individual drivers who may be impacted by the decision, it is of general or public importance. It may have an impact on other businesses," said the decision from Judge Jillian Mallon.

Legislation needed

Uber, which previously vowed to appeal the 2022 decision, welcomed the ruling but stressed that legislative action must be done to protect gig workers.

"While we are pleased to have been granted leave to appeal and make our case to the appellate court, it's our view that industry-wide standards and better protections for Kiwi gig workers should be enacted through legislation," Emma Foley, general manager of Uber New Zealand, told HRD in a statement.

"Governments around the world have embraced the changing nature of work and have begun passing fit-for-purpose laws that better protect gig workers and flexible working arrangements. There's no reason New Zealand can't join them."

In Singapore, while the government does not consider gig workers as employees, platform companies there will soon be required to provide work injury compensation and pension benefits that regular staff enjoy.

In 2021, the European Commission also unveiled draft rules that seek to provide gig economy workers from the European Union with various benefits, such as minimum wage, sick pay, and holidays. 

'Not an unexpected development'

The Employment Court ruled last year that four drivers were "in an employment relationship when carrying out driving work for Uber and is entitled to a declaration of status accordingly."

While the ruling noted that only the four drivers were declared employees, unions celebrated the win and said it will pursue this for all drivers of the platform.

FIRST Union said early this year that Uber drivers across New Zealand initiated their first-ever collective bargaining agreement with the ride-hailing giant to hike wages.

Commenting on the decision of the Court of Appeals, FIRST Union said it was "not an unexpected development" and they are confident in winning the case.

"Returning to the Employment Court just offers us another chance to conclusively show that Uber has wrongly denied its workers employment rights in order to wring every last dollar from New Zealand's economy and workers," said FIRST Union president Robert Reid in a statement.

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