The Labour Party’s pledge to oversee the biggest extension of workplace rights in 80 years if elected to Government has come in for criticism from experts in the professional contracting sector who object to its gig economy proposals.

In a speech to the Trades Union Congress yesterday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the policy would extend more rights to gig economy workers. Addressing the “massive growth” in zero hour contracts and gig working, Mr McDonnell portrayed both as creating a workplace environment of insecurity “not seen since the 1930s”.

Labour’s plans would extend workers in such insecure employment being granted similar rights to permanent employees, including sick pay, paid maternity leave and similar entitlements.

Andy Chamberlain, Deputy Director of Policy at the professional contracting group the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) said that the proposals would “drive a stake through the heart of the flexibility which makes gig work so attractive to people”

Reminding Mr McDonnell that the gig economy had opened opportunities for workers that didn’t previously exist and had confirmed Britain as a world-class trailblazer for innovation, Chamberlain cited Government research conducted earlier this year which demonstrated that most people working in the gig economy report good satisfaction levels.

The nature of the work, he continued, grants them control over their careers, a feature that is especially important for those who need work that fits around other duties such as parental or caring responsibilities.

Emphasising that the clear majority of gig workers have regular jobs in addition to their ‘gigs’ so that they gain an additional source of income, which they’re generally very happy about, Chamberlain said that Labour’s proposal could have the unintended effect of making it harder for people who were willingly seeking challenges to benefit from a “side hustle”.

However, Chamberlain conceded that there was a ‘not insignificant’ proportion of gig workers who were at risk of being vulnerable and agreed that their needs ought to be addressed, including stamping out ‘bogus self-employment’. However, he cautioned: “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”.

Meanwhile, Seb Maley, CEO of the tax advisory consultancy for contracting professionals, Qdos Contractors, urged the Labour Party not to assume that all self-employed workers wanted employment rights.

He said: “Contractors for example, by and large are happy working without these when operating outside IR35. Should Labour hold any hope of appealing to the growing contractor electorate, it must recognise the mistakes it made when introducing the IR35 legislation originally, along with those made by The Conservatives recently.”

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