Following reports that Starmer has diluted his pledge to boost protections for gig economy workers, Angela Rayner has released a statement claiming that Labour will detail how change will be implemented and promised legislation will be introduced to protect worker’s rights within 100 days of coming into office.
The gig economy
The gig economy refers to a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs. In the gig economy, instead of a regular wage, workers get paid for the “gigs” they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey. In the UK, millions are employed in this type of capacity. Some see it as a working environment that offers people with flexibility, while others see it as exploitative due to limited rights and protections concerning unfair dismissal, redundancy payments, the national minimum wage, paid holiday, or sickness pay.
In 2021, the Labour Party pledged to create a single status for “worker” to guarantee “basic rights and protections” for all workers, including those in the gig economy. Crucially, the party had also discussed extending the right to flexible working hours and introducing a new “right to switch off” from emails and calls outside of working hours.
However, reports stated that Labour has now decided to focuses on winning over Britain’s corporate leaders as opposed to enforcing more rigid protections concerning workers rights. This comes as the Conservatives have repeatedly labelled the Labour Party as “anti-business”. At Labour’s national policy forum in Nottingham last month, the party reportedly agreed to consult on this proposal to consider how “a simpler framework” that differentiates between workers and the genuinely self-employed “could properly capture the breadth of employment relationships in the UK” and ensure workers can still “benefit from flexible working where they choose to do so”.
Labour also supposedly clarified that its previously announced plans to introduce “basic individual rights from day one for all workers”, including sick pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal, will “not prevent probationary periods with fair and transparent rules and processes.” Critics are therefore concerned that businesses would retain the right to fairly dismiss workers — on the grounds of capability, conduct or redundancy — under a Labour administration.
Those on the left of the party have therefore been highly critical, with Momentum declaring the party leadership as “wrong to water down its commitment on a single tier of status for workers” and accused the party hierarchy of bowing to “corporate interests”.
Pro-worker and pro-business
Following the reports that the Labour Party has watered down its commitments to improving the conditions of gig workers, shadow education minister, Stephen Morgan has argued that being pro-business can also mean being pro-worker. Explaining that the Labour Party is dedicated to its five national missions, he stated that the party “can be pro-worker and pro-business” as “we have got a really good relationship with business now, we can be trusted to run our economy and to run our country, and we have got a set of policies which are pro-worker too.”
Angela Rayner’s statement
Angela Rayner announced that Labour’s New Deal for Working People, developed in-line with affiliated unions, will be a core part of the Party’s manifesto and that legislation will be brought forward within 100 days of taking office. She stated that this plan “will be the biggest levelling-up of workers’ rights in decades – providing security, treating workers fairly, and paying a decent wage”. She continued to explain how the party aims to “tackle insecure work by banning zero-hours contracts, ending fire and rehire and ending qualifying periods for basic rights, which currently leave working people waiting up to two years for basic protections”.
“We’ll make work more family friendly by making flexible working a day one right except where it isn’t reasonably feasible, strengthening protections for pregnant women and by urgently reviewing parental leave. And we’ll make sure work actually pays with a genuine living wage that covers the cost of living, ensuring fair tips, boosting collective rights – and by speeding up the closing of the gender pay gap” Rayner continued.
As Sir Keir Starmer tries to woo corporate leaders and attempt to discredit the Conservative’s claims that his party is “anti-business”, it is clear that the Labour party faces a predicament ahead of the next general election. Angela Rayner’s statement may provide some solace to workers, but much response to her thread on X demonstrates a lack of trust in the Labour Party’s leadership, especially in light of previous commitments being broken.