Who? Nigel Mackay, associate lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day.
Why is he in the news? Mackay and colleague Annie Powell worked on the case against Uber at the Central London Employment Tribunal. The case on behalf of 19 Uber drivers was brought by the GMB union and argued that the drivers were employees and therefore entitled to receive the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The landmark ruling of the tribunal, in favour of the drivers, following a hearing in July, paves the way for tens of thousands of Uber drivers to bring claims against Uber and has wider implications for the so-called ‘gig-economy’.
It was the first case Uber had faced in the UK over whether its drivers are workers or self-employed.
As part of its defence Uber denied that its drivers were entitled to workers’ rights, claiming that it is just a technology company, not a taxi provider, and that Uber drivers do not work for Uber but instead work for themselves as self-employed business men and women.
Thoughts on the case: ‘This judgment acknowledges the central contribution that Uber’s drivers have made to Uber’s success by confirming that its drivers are not self-employed but that they work for Uber as part of the company’s business.
‘Uber drivers often work very long hours just to earn enough to cover their basic living costs. It is the work carried out by these drivers that has allowed Uber to become the multi-billion-dollar global corporation it is.
‘We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the minimum wage and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them.
‘This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.’
Dealing with the media: ‘It’s been a very busy day and we were doing interviews from first thing this morning. A tribunal verdict is very unlike a High Court verdict as we don’t get an embargoed copy and so we didn’t know the result until we received a copy in our hands. We then had to work with the GMB to inform the press.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I wanted to help people who had been wronged, as cheesy as that sounds. I have also always been a politics geek and I love the way employment law in particular is very much a political animal.’
Career high: ‘The Uber judgment. But there have been other lower-profile successes that have been equally important to my clients who have lost their jobs or been discriminated against. It is also really satisfying to get great results for them.’
Career low: ‘When I was a trainee solicitor, I played Hugh Grant in a Four Weddings and a Funeral sketch in my firm’s trainee revue. My Grant impression was terrible.’