All workers from direct employees to those in the gig economy would be eligible for sick pay, holiday, parental leave and the minimum wage from day one of their jobs under new plans announced by Labour.
The party said it would create a new definition of “worker” in law to make sure everyone in employment gets the same protections.
Under the current system, there are qualifying periods for rights such as statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental leave and flexible working requests.
Labour said all workers should get rights immediately, whether they were in direct employment or working in the so-called gig economy.
The move would mean an extra 6 million people in insecure work having access to sick pay, potentially helping to solve the issue of some gig economy workers with Covid being reluctant to isolate because of worries about losing money.
To qualify for sick pay currently, workers must have an employment contract, earn an average of at least £120 a week and have been ill or self-isolating for at least four days in a row.
As well as extending the right to statutory sick pay, Labour said it would give extra protection on national minimum wage entitlement, holiday pay and paid parental leave, and protection against unfair dismissal.
The 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.”
Labour said the current law meant there were three separate employment statuses – employee; dependent contractors, known in law as “limb (b) workers”; and self-employed – each with separate accompanying rights.
Under Labour’s proposal, employees, dependent contractors and those in bogus self-employment would have the same rights, while the genuinely self-employed would retain their status.
The announcement is part of a week of policy proposals that Keir Starmer’s team is unveiling under the banner of a “new deal for working people”.
The Labour leader and his team have been cautious about announcing new policy since he took over the job last spring, and some in the party have been pushing for a more concrete platform and vision.
Under the “new deal” announcements, the party hopes to bring together policies already announced, including a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour, a guarantee of work or training for young people and a buy-British approach, intended to use government procurement to support employment.
Announcing the programme, Starmer highlighted his background – his mother was a nurse, his father a toolmaker – and said a new deal was necessary as the economy emerged from the Covid crisis.
“It often feels remote when politicians talk about this thing called the economy, but our economy is just the sum total of the work of the British people. If we create good work for everyone, we will all benefit. With Labour, we can make Britain the best place to work,” he said.