The recent UK Supreme Court judgement on Uber’s employment model has reignited questions about work in the broader ‘gig economy’. The Court’s recent judgment that Uber drivers are ‘workers’, and therefore within the scope of employment law, applies far beyond the drivers who had brought the specific case. The accumulation of similar precedents in courts around the world means that legal and regulatory pressures on the broader platform business model will continue. This has been underlined by the high-profile reluctance of some major institutional investors to take part in the Deliveroo stock-market listing, citing concern about the viability of the model.
This policy brief explores the implications of these developments for work and productivity in the UK economy. While some of the issues raised by the judgment are specific to digital platforms, the broad policy questions raised by the recent cases speak to the whole contingent segment of the labour force in the UK and elsewhere. The digital platforms grab the headlines, but, as we set out here, a significant proportion of the working population is affected by the same issues – not just couriers and drivers, but others ranging from hairdressers and gym instructors to people working in hospitality or construction.