Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over the public sector pay cap and zero hours contracts in the first Prime Ministers Questions since the summer recess.
The Labour leader singled out McDonalds and Sports Direct for criticism over the use of the precarious contracts, but Mrs May sidestepped demands to condemn them.
Mr Corbyn told the prime minister to "see sense" by scrapping the public sector pay cap, amid mounting speculation that Mrs May is preparing to end the long-standing policy.
- 'Warm words don't pay food bills'
The ongoing dispute over public sector pay centres on the 1% cap on annual pay rises, brought in as part of the Conservative government's austerity programme. Due to inflation, wages are falling in real terms for many public sector workers.
With nurses protesting outside parliament over the issue, Mr Corbyn asked if she was happy that NHS staff are using food banks, adding: "Warm words don't pay food bills, pay rises will help to do that".
Mrs May said: "We absolutely value the work of all those public sector nurses, teachers and others who are doing a good job for us day in and day out in often what are very difficult and harrowing circumstances."
She slammed Labour's record in government, saying "we now have to pay more on debt interest than on NHS pay, that's the result of Labour."
The Public and Commercial Services Union has also just announced that civil servants will be balloted for strikes in protest at the cap.
The sector's biggest trade union will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action.
The union said Civil Service pay had fallen by between £2,000 and £3,500 in real terms from 2010 to 2016 because of the Government's pay policy.
- May challenged on zero hours contracts
Pressed on whether she would back an end to zero hours contracts, the prime minister said her government had banned exclusive zero hours contracts.
Mr Corbyn asked if "tough talk on corporate greed" in the Tory manifesto was "just for the election campaign, or is it going to be put into law?".
Mrs May responded by listing shareholder power to veto pay policy, transparency on board members' pay and transparency measures on banks as government achievements.
Earlier this week, McDonalds workers staged their first strike in the UK over pay, contracts and conditions.
Mr Corbyn said McDonald's boss Steve Easterbrook is reported to have received £11.8 million last year while some of his staff are paid as little as £4.75 an hour, to which Mrs May responded: "The issue that is taking place in McDonald's is a matter for McDonald's to deal with."
The Labour leader said that Mike Ashley, the chairman of Sports Direct, has personally pledged to end zero hours contracts at the company, but "a year on, they're still exploiting workers" with them.
Asked if she was going to act on the issue, Mrs May said: "It is this government that has actually taken action on zero hours contracts."