Throughout the pandemic, the glaring disparity between those in secure work who – as challenging as it was – were able to work safely from home, and those people who had to put themselves at risk every day was very apparent. We know that many key workers went out to work every day in unsafe conditions. We know that some people simply couldn’t afford to self isolate because they had no access to sick pay. And we know that millions of self-employed people fell through the gaps of Government support schemes and were simply left to fend for themselves.
The last 18 months have exposed the inadequacies of the UK’s employment system. And in large part, they are down to the different employment statuses that exist in the UK. Currently, there are three types of status: employees, the self employed and “limb (b) workers”. Each group has different rights, which means that for many people, the basic protections we should expect in the workplace simply do not exist.
The problem is further exacerbated by unscrupulous bosses who falsely categorize their staff as “self-employed”, even when they should clearly have employee status. This means people have fewer rights and protections, and are not entitled to the national minimum wage or paid holidays.
Here in Bristol, with our thriving hospitality and entertainment industry, there are thousands of casual employees affected by these discrepancies. We also know that the problem of bogus self-employment is particularly apparent in the “gig economy”, amongst those who deliver our takeaways or drive our taxis. Of course, we have many brilliant Bristol employers, who properly value and look after their staff. But your access to the rights and protections you’re entitled to shouldn’t depend on the attitude of your employer: it should be guaranteed in law.
That’s why a Labour Government would end the discrepancies in our system, and give everyone security at work. We would create a single status of “worker” for everyone but the genuinely self-employed, removing qualifying periods for basic protections to give everyone rights in their job from day one. Under our plans, all employees would be entitled to sick pay, the national minimum wage, parental leave, the right to flexible working and proper protection against unfair dismissal.
This shouldn’t be groundbreaking – these are basic 21st century rights which every person should enjoy.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed our economy and has created many new opportunities which we should grab with both hands. I’m optimistic that we can achieve a better work-life balance for people if we push ahead with policies that are built upon the modern world of work.