THE UK is unprepared for the impact of increased automation in the workplace – but "robots can free us", Labour's deputy leader claims.

Tom Watson urged the UK to "embrace an android" as he welcomed the findings of a report ordered by the party on tech and the economy.

The MP said a more mechanised future will "liberate" people by allowing them to work on activities with greater economic benefits.

The Future of Work Commission report calls for greater spending on research and development to allow the UK to keep pace with advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.

But it also warns lawmakers will have to introduce new protections through a Charter for Good Work to prevent employers from using technology as a "new tool of worker exploitation".

Commenting on the findings, Watson said the report shows that many predictions of the impact of new technology on the world of work have been "far too pessimistic".

Making the "embrace an android" call, he said there are currently too few in operation and that "robots can set us free" – if properly regulated.

Watson stressed that the Commission's recommendations are not yet official Labour policy, but gave his own personal welcome to the proposals.

They include pegging spending on innovation and research and development and innovation at 3.5 per cent of national income by 2030, as well as reforming the tax system to reward companies which invest in technology and providing financial incentives to do so.

Suggestions also include moving towards a single category of "worker" in UK law to ensure employees do not suffer by being classed wrongly as self-employed or casual, allowing increased collective organisation to protect staff security and bargaining power, including for those who are self-employed or freelance, and giving new rights to flexible working and leave for learning to allow more people to gain new skills as their current roles become mechanised.

Speaking at the report's launch, Watson said Labour would consult on its recommendations for new workers' rights in the era of the gig economy.

He warned that technology was being used too often to allow new forms of exploitation through workplace surveillance, as well as the use of shift management systems that employers but make it difficult for staff to plan their lives, and app-based businesses which treat workers as self-employed when in fact they are regular employees.

However, the Sheffield MP rejected suggestions that new technology could cost up to 15 million jobs in the UK, though he did joke that "in Theresa May, we have our first robot politician".

Watson said: "Our report found that the most apocalyptic predictions about the impact automation will have on jobs are far too pessimistic.

"We believe automation and artificial intelligence can, with the right policy framework around it, create as many jobs as it destroys."

He went on: "If the heavy lifting and routine tasks of the future can be carried out by 21st century machines, then the workforce of the future will be free to focus on activities that generate greater economic benefits for a greater number of people.

"That is liberating. So I suppose what I'm really saying is robots can set us free."