A recent decision granted four drivers the status of employees rather than contractors for the rideshare company Uber, which Uber is appealing against.
The case was brought jointly by FIRST Union and E tū and has been predicted to have significant implications for other Uber drivers.
However, the court said this decision was for only the singular Uber drivers in this case. “It did not have jurisdiction to make broader declarations of employment status to include, for example, all Uber drivers,” said Chief Employment Court Judge Christina Inglis. Therefore there is no immediate legal impact on other Uber drivers who do not become employees.
NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff stated that everyone who worked for Uber and similar rideshare companies has a right to be treated as an employee by the companies.
"These drivers deserve protection under New Zealand's employment law, including pay, guaranteed hours, leave, Kiwisaver contributions and the right to unionise."
Uber acknowledged that the ruling underscored the need for industry-wide minimum standards for on-demand work. Uber stated they are committed to improving standards for all independent workers across all platforms. Still, preserving drivers' flexibility and autonomy was equally essential to them.
"Kiwi drivers consistently tell us that the flexibility that comes with driving with Uber is what they value most," Uber said.
Uber said many OECD countries, including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, were leading the way on policy reform that reflected the realities of a modern economy and raised the bar for independent contractors.
"We will continue to work collaboratively with industry and the New Zealand government throughout the contractor policy reform process."
In the case, each plaintiff driver was in an employment relationship when carrying out driving work for Uber and was therefore entitled to a status declaration. In this case, Judge Inglis considered a list of matters relevant to assessing the fundamentals of the relationship between the company and the drivers.
What would employment mean for Uber Drivers?
An Uber driver's most prominent benefits include pay guaranteed hours, leave, and the right to unionise. However, the most considerable benefit to Uber drivers would come from KiwiSaver contributions. KiwiSaver can enable Uber drivers to save efficiently for their retirement, and without being considered employees, Uber drivers are missing out on KiwiSaver contributions.
These KiwiSaver contributions are significant because they will add up over time. The accumulated return from these contributions could be the difference between retiring at 65 and retiring later in life to afford a more comfortable lifestyle.
For Uber drivers that become an employee or not, starting a KiwiSaver and regularly contributing can be the key to saving for retirement or a first home. Even without the employer contributing to KiwiSaver, you will still receive government contributions. To ensure you are on track with your KiwiSaver, complete a KiwiSaver HealthCheck and get free personalised advice.