Uber Image Credit: Supplied

London: Uber Technologies Inc. lost a UK Supreme Court ruling over the rights of its drivers, in a landmark decision that threatens the company's business model in the country.

The judges said that Uber drivers are "workers" entitled to rights like minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks. The court said the contact terms were set by Uber and working conditions were controlled by the company.

Uber drivers' "working time is not limited to period when driving passengers," Judge George Leggatt said in a summary of the ruling. It also "includes any period when a driver is logged into the app and ready and willing to accept trips."

The ruling is the end of the road for Uber's five-year fight over the status of its drivers and another setback for Uber in the UK, which is home to the ride sharing company's largest European market. Last year, Uber had to fight to retain its license to operate in London after the transport regulator complained about safety concerns.

The employment dispute will now return to a specialty tribunal, which will decide how much to award the 25 drivers who brought the case in 2016. About 1,000 similar claims against the company, which had been stayed until after the ruling, may also proceed.

Uber's fight over drivers' employment rights extends across its global operations. In its home state of California, drivers are suing to invalidate a ballot measure approved last year that declared them independent contractors. Meanwhile, policy makers in the European Union are expected to publish recommendations for improving working conditions for gig-economy workers later this month.