Thompsons comments on the impact of Brexit on workers’ rights as the UK gets ready to leave the EU
Workers’ rights are enshrined in EU law, forcing Member States to comply and allowing workers the opportunity to take legal action if they are being unfairly treated in the workplace. Little will change immediately after Brexit day. EU law will continue to apply until the end of the transition period, which means until the end of 2020 at least. But what’s important is what comes after that. As it stands, UK law provides for the preservation of EU law once this period has concluded. However, that doesn’t stop new legislation from dismantling those laws at the end of that period.
If Boris Johnson wanted to show his commitment to workers’ rights after Brexit he could make sure that any trade agreement that the UK negotiates with the EU includes the so-called ‘dynamic alignment’ (mirroring) of UK law with EU law into the future. Considering he has previously publically stated that he’s against this, that is unlikely.
Workers’ rights after Brexit:
So what will these implications mean for workers?
- Working hours – The EU has various limits in place, such as on night work, rest breaks, and weekly working hours. There’s no certainty that the government will maintain these after 2020;
- Annual leave – EU law offers four weeks’ paid annual leave as minimum (going up to 5.6 weeks when you include bank holidays). If the UK law is changed, employers could feasibly opt to lower this limit considerably;
- Discrimination – EU law offers considerable protections against discrimination at work. Without this, these laws could be reversed. Possibly the most vulnerable area is age discrimination;
- Equal pay – EU law has helped promote equal pay for women – a retraction of such law could see a widening of the gender pay gay;
- Agency work – Agency workers currently have the same rights (pay, annual leave, etc.) as direct employees. If this is removed, employers could employ agency staff on lower wages, fail to pay them for sickness leave, and more;
- Maternity rights – Changes to EU law may see a removal of the right to four months’ parental leave, and special protection for dismissal of pregnant workers.