Gig economy workers are drawing the attention of politicians in the UK. Tuesday, one politician said in a speech to labor union TUC that the Labour Party will give gig economy workers the same rights as traditional employees should it win the next general election.
It’s a move “that would benefit millions of workers in the gig economy and other insecure work who are not currently entitled to sick pay, parental leave or protections against unfair dismissal,” said John McDonnell, a member of Parliament and the Labour Shadow Chancellor.
“When employers use legal loopholes and weak enforcement to duck their responsibilities close those legal loopholes and strengthen enforcement,” McDonnell said. “When technology creates new employment relations extend regulation to keep pace. And when the balance of power shifts so dramatically away from workers as it has done today it’s time for us to tip it back.”
The next general election is not until May 2022, but the government could call for an election sooner. Politicians in the UK are also dealing with the Brexit question; the BBC reported that Labour leadership may believe a general election could be just months away in the event of a troubled Brexit.
The Labour Party’s plans for gig economy workers drew concern from some corners.
“Labour’s proposal will drive a stake through the heart of the flexibility which makes gig work so attractive to people,” said Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of policy for The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed.
Work must be done to stamp out intentional misclassification, Chamberlain said, “but it would be a mistake to conflate ‘bogus self-employment’ with the ‘gig economy’ or wider self-employment, and then try to regulate these ways of working into oblivion.”
The sharing and gig economy has also created new ways for millions of people to work in the UK, said Richard Laughton, chair of Sharing Economy UK and CEO of easyCar, in a statement released by the Confederation of British Industry.
“Businesses are already taking steps to give benefits and similar workers’ rights to participants, but this is a new industry and this is a conversation that must continue,” Laughton said. “To deliver our country’s vision of becoming an ‘innovation nation,’ making the sharing and gig economy work well has to be front and center.”