Brexit must not lead to the watering down of any of the workers’ rights we have worked so hard to achieve
This September, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights launched an inquiry into the implications for Brexit for human rights.
Providing written evidence to the committee, Thompsons Solicitors argued that the principles enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights are the bedrock of human rights law in the UK, and Brexit must not lead to any of these rights - particular those relating to workers - being watered down or lost.
Article 8 includes various worker’s rights, notably a person’s "private and family life, his home and his correspondence", which have been subsumed into British law in different ways. Some laws, like the Data Protection Act (DPA), are contained in acts of parliament, and could be repealed relatively easily by a government motivated to revise that primary legislation.
For cases where the UK has been following European legislation without having implemented it in primary or secondary legislation, with Brexit these enshrined rights may cease to apply.
According to Stephen Cavalier, chief executive of Thompsons Solicitors, employment rights are central to the UK’s wider human rights framework and any attempt to repeal them would be a fundamental attack on working people.
“Take the Employment Rights Act 1996. If this were repealed then agency workers, who often already bear the brunt of exploitative employment practices, would lose entitlements such as parental leave and flexible working arrangements; which are derived from Article 8. “Meanwhile, important legislation like the Pregnant Workers Directive 92/85/EC is based in European law and could be lost entirely with the process of leaving the EU. Designed to protect the health and safety of women when pregnant or after they have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding, such a loss could make women and their unborn or new child vulnerable to ill-health caused by environmental toxins in the workplace.
“These are fundamental human rights currently enjoyed by working people. And, while it remains to be seen whether ministers currently have the appetite to take a sledgehammer to such legislation, any threat - which may not be fully understood until after Brexit has happened - must be taken very seriously and we hope the Joint Committee on Human Rights will carefully weigh up such implications for workers when making its recommendations to government.
You can read Thompsons’ full submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights here.