The Labour Party this week announced that as part of its “new deal for working people” it would abolish the UK’s overcomplicated employment status system and replace it with a universal status of ‘worker’ and providing all people in employment with their rights from day one on the job.
By doing so, it will effectively abolish insecure work by providing workers across the economy – from traditionally hired employees, to agency worker and ‘gig’ workers – protections that a significant part of the workforce currently misses out on, such as the right to claim unfair dismissal, and redundancy rights.
The IER first proposed a universal status of worker in its 2016 Manifesto for Labour Law, the recommendations of which were quickly adopted by the Corbyn-led Labour Party and incorporated into the Labour Party general election Manifestoes of 2017 and 2019.
Until this week, it was unclear whether Keir Starmer’s Labour would maintain the same platform on workers’ rights, but Shadow Secretary for Employment Rights and Protections, Andy McDonald, has confirmed the Party will continue to push for a universal status of worker.
“Millions of workers are in insecure employment with low pay and few rights and protections, particularly key workers whose efforts got the country through the pandemic,” he said.
“A lack of basic rights and protections forces working people into poverty and insecurity. This is terrible for working people, damaging for the economy, and as we have seen throughout the pandemic, devastating for public health.
“We need a new deal for working people. Labour would ensure that all work balances the flexibility workers want with the security they deserve.”
The legislation necessary to make such a policy reality has already been drafted and is passing through the House of Lords as a Private Members’ Bill moved by IER Chair, Lord John Hendy QC.
The Status of Workers Bill, which will doubtlessly receive Labour Party support, sets out the legislative reforms needed to create a universal status of worker as well as flipping the presumption so that where there is a dispute over an individual’s employment status, it is for the employer to prove they are a self-employed contractor rather than the individual to prove they are a ‘worker’.
This will transform the ‘gig’ economy, which is responsible for a consistent stream of cases taken to tribunal by workers misclassified as self employed.