Labour plans to overhaul employment status and qualification periods
“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." - Andy McDonald MP
Further qualification from shadow employment secretary Andy McDonald explained Labour’s plans to amalgamate the existing employee and worker statuses into a single status of ‘worker’ which would enjoy rights such as Statutory Sick Pay, National Minimum Wage entitlement, holiday pay, paid parental leave, as well as protection against unfair dismissal from day one of employment. Such a move would bring eligibility for statutory sick pay to a further six million workers, a policy that may well prove popular in light of the obvious pressures felt by many in the gig economy throughout the Covid pandemic.
Of course any such announcement by the opposition midway through a parliamentary term brings with it a reasonable degree of scepticism as to whether this is a serious policy or mere political posturing. However the fact that such proposals were also discussed under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the recent announcement of Labour’s proposal for a ‘new deal for working people’ may suggest a genuine commitment of Labour to set their stall out on this issue. This is particularly pertinent in light of the recent decisions involving Uber and Addison Lee bringing the issue of employee rights into sharper focus amongst employers as well as the public at large.
Obviously the actual imposition or indeed survival of such a policy is at this stage shrouded in unknowns, chief amongst them being the post Uber case law development between now and the General Election, not due until 2024 (notwithstanding the unknowable result). There is also a notable lack of detail as to how exactly this will affect a tribunal system that was straining under the weight of a significant backlog of claims even before the pandemic struck. Opening up eligibility to millions more workers will logically add to this strain unless there is an accompanying strategy on reform.
Whilst employers will not need to change their immediate practices in light of this announcement, the fact that this issue is being brought into the limelight of political discourse, potentially forcing the government to clarify its position on the issue, could lead to interesting developments over the coming months.