Millions of workers will be turned into "second class citizens" if the government adopts proposals in Adrian Beecroft's controversial report into employment rights, union leaders have warned.
The report by the venture capitalist proposes to introduce a number of controversial measures intended to cut business red tape and boost economic growth.
However opponents of the measures argue that the government-commissioned report strips workers of their rights, insisting that the proposals would make it easier for firms to sack under-performing staff.
The TUC said the ideas would take the UK back towards Victorian times and dressed up in Victorian costume as part of a protest in Westminster.
Union officials warned against using the state of the economy to water down employment rights, with TUC general secretary Brendan Barber saying: "We have made steady progress in the UK in securing a floor of minimum rights at work for all, but they are hardly generous.
"The OECD shows that among the world's 36 most prosperous countries, only workers in the USA have poorer rights than UK employees.
"Almost every advance has been bitterly opposed. The same arguments used against legal protection for child chimney sweeps in the 19th century are repeated every time.
"However, the clock is now turning backwards. Already people have to wait two years before getting protection against unfair dismissal.
"The opponents of workplace decency, like Adrian Beecroft, are using the economic crisis as an excuse to try to smuggle through attacks on employee rights.
"In particular he and his supporters in government want to turn employees in small businesses into second-class citizens by stripping them of many rights."
Conservatives believe that "relaxing the rules" in business will encourage employers to hire more workers. However speaking to The Huffington Post UK, last month Lib Dem business minister Norman Lamb also suggested that experience showed "fire at will" employment laws had very little impact on job creation, even among micro-businesses.
Business minister Mark Prisk said 17 of the 23 recommendations in Mr Beecroft's report were already being put into action, while the rest were subject to consultation until June 8.