Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has pledged to bring in new laws to give “gig economy” workers sick pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal.
Speaking at the annual Trade Union Congress in Manchester, Mr McDonnell said a Labour government would “shift the burden of proof” so workers would automatically be treated as an employee unless an employer could “prove otherwise”.
“Just because you value the freedom of independence or the convenience of flexibility doesn’t mean you have to forgo basic rights,” he said.
Mr McDonnell explained Labour wanted to “extend full rights” to all workers in insecure work granting automatic sick pay, maternity rights, and the right against unfair dismissal from “day one of their employment”.
He added that HMRC would be used to fine employers who broke the rules.
“When employers use legal loopholes and weak enforcement to duck their responsibilities, close those legal loopholes and strengthen enforcement,” he said.
In June, a plumber won a landmark workers’ rights dispute at the Supreme Court against Pimlico Plumbers.
The plumber, Gary Smith, argued his working relationship with Pimlico Plumbers meant he should be classed as an employee rather than a subcontractor, entitling him to certain employment rights.
The court found in favour of Mr Smith on four claims relating to unlawful wage deduction, statutory leave and disability discrimination, but not one connected to unfair dismissal.
Pimlico Plumbers chief executive criticised the decision warning that UK companies using self-employed contractors now faced a “tsunami of claims”.