Judges refer Uber taxi driver status case to Supreme Court

A Dutch court case to decide if Uber drivers are freelancers or employees has been referred to the Supreme Court for its opinion because of its “major social and legal implications”.

In particular, the Amsterdam appeal court wants to know more about the role of entrepreneurship in determining the relationship between driver and company, according to a statement published on Tuesday.

The appeal court also wants the Supreme Court’s opinion on the procedures used by trade union FNV to claim that all Uber drivers should be included in the taxi sector pay and conditions agreement.

In March 2023, the Supreme Court established several criteria in a similar case, involving Deliveroo delivery workers which have implications for the Uber case.

In particular, the Supreme Court said riders working for Deliveroo are employees, not self-employed, because there was a relationship based on authority and Deliveroo managed their actions via the login system. Deliveroo has since left the country.

In 2021, Amsterdam’s district court ruled that Uber drivers should be on the payroll, but since then the taxi company has taken no steps to implement the ruling. And last year, in another hearing, judges ruled the lower court decision should be suspended pending the appeal.  

The case comes as the European member states agree on introducing new rules for so-called platform companies, which offer freelancer services online. The rules aim to make it harder for companies to insist that workers are self-employed if they don’t want to be. 

Companies such as Uber and Deliveroo argue that taxi and meal delivery firms want the freedom of being self-employed but critics argue the workers are being denied labour rights, such as paid holidays, and the legal protection provided by national and EU laws.

The European Council plans state that companies must treat their personnel as employees if they meet a certain number of conditions, for example, whether or not they can set their own hours and fees, or if they can also work for competitors. 

If approved, the draft directive, which still has to be considered by the European parliament, will come into effect in two years time. 

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