Labour Party plan for a single status of 'worker'

29 September 2021

In July 2021, the Labour Party revealed its plans for a single definition of worker to establish a whole suite of day 1 rights, and which would apply to all categories of worker and employee apart from the genuinely self-employed.

The plan is aimed at ending insecure employment which has been the subject of much litigation in recent years with high profile companies such as Uber and Deliveroo in the gig economy.

The new single worker status would attract employment rights such as statutory sick pay, the national minimum wage (likely £10 per hour), holiday pay, paid parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal, all from the first day of employment. Labour have also said there would be an automatic right to flexible working from day 1, with employers being subject to a legal responsibility to accommodate flexible working - including flexible hours, compressed hours, and flexibility around school run and childcare during school holidays – unless they can show it is not workable.

The proposals have been welcomed by some, saying they would put an end to the zero-rights model of employment that has sprung up with the advent of the gig economy. Others are worried about practicalities, the cost of the extra rights in the pockets of cash strapped businesses in a post-pandemic era, and practical questions such as how to deal with tax implications for some gig economy workers who still pay tax on a self-employed basis. The finer detail remains to be clarified.

The proposals would be a major shake-up in employment law, but Labour would need to get voted in first. Although they have closed the gap significantly since March 2020, they remain behind the Conservative party in the polls. Even if they are elected and the proposals get pushed through, it could be many years before any change on the statute books. Plenty of time to iron out the finer detail.


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