Sick pay & minimum wage | What Labour's pledge could mean for HR

What Labour's pledge could mean for HR

Under new plans announced by Labour, the party has pledged the same rights for all workers from the first day of their jobs.

According to these plans, the Guardian reports that all workers – from direct staff to those in the gig economy – would be eligible for the minimum wage, sick pay, holiday and parental leave from day one of their role.

The Labour party has also said that it would create a new definition of the term “worker” in law to ensure everyone in employment receives the same protections.

In the current system, there are qualifying periods for rights including shared parental leave and flexible working requests among other things.

The Labour party – which is led by Keir Starmer – said that workers should be granted these rights immediately – whether they are working in the gig-economy or in direct employment.

‘We need a new deal’

Shadow Employment Secretary, Andy McDonald, said: “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.

“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,” McDonald added.

‘Full rights from day one’

Angela Rayner, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, took to Twitter writing: “Labour will ban zero hours contracts and give workers the right to a regular contract that reflects their usual hours.

“A single status of "worker" will give all working people – including gig economy workers – full rights from day one on the job,” Rayner added in the tweet.

This proposed move from the Labour Party would mean an extra six million people in insecure work would have access to sick pay.

The Guardian reported that under these proposals, employees, dependent contractors and those in bogus self-employment would have the same rights.

The genuinely self-employed would retain their status.

Industry experts react to Labour’s pledge

Following this news, several industry experts have weighed in, including Anthony Woodcock, Founder of GIG – an app to find flexible shift work.

He told HR Grapevine that in essence, they wouldn’t be against this principle. Despite this, he said that follow-on questions would centre around how this would work in practice.

Woodcock explained: “How do you calculate maternity leave for someone who has been on your books for three months, working casually and only done two eight-hour shifts for example. Holiday pay is something we factor in already at GIG so this is nothing new for us. So, as long as these are things that are calculated per hour worked for casual workers then the principle is a good one.

“It will encourage and empower more people to work flexibly. If the suggestions involve any other form of commitment from the worker or unfair financial commitments from the business then I think it will have the opposite effect. As long as it doesn't impede the flexibility of both parties then it’s a welcome idea.

“It will only work if the contributions are % of the hourly rate for every hour worked and held by the employer and then paid out when requested for the various examples," Woodcock added. 

Dee Coakley, CEO of Boundless, said: “As a company that aims to democratise access to well-paid full-time jobs across borders, we welcome the proposals brought forward by Labour to fix inherent inequalities between working people in the UK.

“Everyone who devotes their time and attention to a company deserves the fundamental rights and securities extended by employment law - sick pay (especially in times such as the past 18 months), unemployment benefits, right to disconnect, paid time off, etc., as well as the protections against discrimination, whistleblowing or unjust dismissal,” Coakley added.

‘The devil will be in the detail’

This news also attracted the attention of Robert Dunn, Employment Barrister at Parklane Plowden Chambers, who told HR Grapevine: “At first sight, Labour's pledge offers practical benefits for the HR sector. One unified definition of ‘worker’, with no qualifying periods, to assess the rights of all staff."

Despite this, Dunn did add that “as ever, the devil will be in the detail”.

He continued: “What are 'full rights'? Would ‘workers’ really obtain valuable unfair dismissal rights on their first day? Would ‘workers’ be defined as they are now, or does the promise to include the ‘gig-economy’ and ‘bogus self-employed’ signal a further widening? And what about agency workers, apprentices, or those on probation?

“With such key questions still to be answered, clarity will be vital, lest we have a repeat of the minefield of cases which have plagued the question of employment status. That would certainly delay any practical benefits for the sector. For now, the jury must remain out,” Dunn added.

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