Uber loses a gig-worker classification case in New Zealand

Four New Zealand Uber drivers must now be treated as employees, with full worker protections.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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On Mondays, we explore what’s happening abroad in the world of HR.

Gig workers frequently work long hours without the benefits that usually accompany full-time employment. And as more and more contractor platforms, including Lyft, DoorDash, and Taskrabbit, have popped up since Uber’s 2009 launch, governments around the world have struggled to regulate this new way of working.

But that may be changing. Just look at Uber: In 2021, the rideshare company faced labor challenges in 20 countries, according to The Guardian, most recently in New Zealand.

What in the world? New Zealand may be a world away, but gig workers there, like gig workers in several countries, are fighting for employment protections. Just last month, four Uber drivers won a case against the company, arguing that they should be treated as employees, rather than gig workers.

The court ruled that the drivers met enough of the traditional qualifications of what it means to be an employee, highlighting how Uber maintains control over drivers through incentives, as well as how and when they work.

Satellite view. While the ruling only applies to the four drivers involved in the lawsuit, some experts have speculated that labor advocates will move to expand the employee protections to all Uber drivers in the country.

Should they succeed, the implications could be significant, according to TechCrunch: The ruling granted the drivers sick leave, paid holidays, a minimum wage, and guaranteed hours, among other protections available to employees in New Zealand.

There has been a push for gig worker protections in recent years, with similar rulings coming down in the Netherlands, Italy, and France. And in October, US lawmakers introduced legislation that could make it easier for regulators to enshrine some gig workers as employees.

If that were to happen, “Workers are likely to become eligible for ‘employee only’ benefits such as retirement, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation,” Jerry Cutler, lecturer at Columbia University School of Professional Studies, told Forbes.

What about you, readers? Does your company use gig workers? How would reclassification impact your job? Tell us by responding to this email.—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @Kris10Parisi on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

Our HR newsletter delivers need-to-know industry news and insights to HR pros every weekday for free.