A new study published by the TUC warns that working people in both the UK and the EU are at risk from the erosion of workplace rights after Brexit – especially those in low-skilled jobs. 

The report “Could a bad Brexit deal reduce workers’ rights across Europe?” reviews evidence on the relationship between labour standards and foreign direct investment. It also looks at a range of potential consequences for working people in Britain and the EU after Brexit. 

The study finds that better labour standards can help attract foreign investment, particularly in high-end sectors, creating a “race to the top” for high-pay high-productivity jobs. But it also finds that for low-pay and low-productivity sectors, there are real risks of a “race to the bottom” if countries seek to compete by cutting workers’ protections. 

The TUC points out that the Chancellor has threatened to change the UK to a deregulated tax haven if a post-Brexit deal with the EU is not reached and warns that this raises the risk that Britain may cut protections for people at work. The study suggests that this would lead to pressure on EU nations from multinationals to reduce working people’s rights in order to compete for low-skilled jobs. 

These concerns are compounded by another study commissioned by the TUC from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which found that the UK has seen significant growth in insecure forms of employment compared to other EU countries, linked to relatively weak legal protections for those in bogus self-employment, agency work and on zero-hour contracts. 

The report “International trends in insecure work” finds that the absence of effective legislation in the UK to regulate insecure work has allowed the growth of atypical employment, like zero-hours contracts. By contrast, atypical workers elsewhere in the EU tend to have stronger legal protections and greater job security. 

Jo Seery, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented that “the reports reveal the growth in bogus self-employment and zero hours contracts is driven by a policy decision and is not necessarily synonymous with economic growth.  It is not right that these workers lose out on employment protection when the reality is that they are in the same subordinate relationship as other employees.  As well as maintaining employment rights post Brexit, protection should be extended to cover these workers.” 

To read the report on Brexit, go to: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/TUC_BrexitWorkersRights.pdf 

To read the report on insecure work, go to: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/InternationalTrendsinInsecureWork_0.pdf