NEWS: Theresa May’s Brexit Government – Implications for Employees' Rights

Radical at least in Tory Party terms

Theresa May set out a somewhat radical vision for putting the Tory Party ‘at the service’ of working people and the disadvantaged.Radical at least in Tory Party terms in so far as she made a point of highlighting the difficulties faced by the poor, the white working class, ethnic minorities and women.

Theresa May

Her speech was light on concrete proposals but there were a couple of specifics for workers rights amongst her vision of a Government for all not just the privileged few: she promised to place workers on the boards of large companies and increase powers on voting on corporate pay.

The rhetoric at least if not the detail constitutes a significant departure from the Government she was a part of for six years which reduced many employment rights of workers in the name of austerity. David Cameron too had once talked of a renewal of one nation conservatism and the ‘big society’.

Within an hour of her campaign launch Theresa May was being coronated as the next Prime Minister following Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the race. Interestingly she repeated her vision of a Government for all and her equalities agenda in her first comments as she walked into 10 Downing Street yesterday.

Leading ‘Brexiters’ were given senior jobs in the Government

As she quickly started putting together her Cabinet it was not surprising that leading ‘Brexiters’ like Boris Johnson, David Davies and Dr Liam Fox were given senior jobs in the new Government to begin the process of Brexit.

European Union

It is unclear at this stage what these Brexit Cabinet colleagues make of Theresa May’s pitch for leadership of the Tory Party and her vision of the next Government. The pace of events left no time for their views. What is clear is that British right-wing hostility to the European Union has traditionally been driven in no small part as a reaction to the development of the social chapter and employment rights protections in EU law; as a reaction to a social Europe.

The prospect of an end to Brussels red tape for British business by way of relaxed employment and labour laws was made a selling point of leaving the European Union by Tory Brexiters. Indeed in her botched leadership campaign Andrea Leadsom gave a different vision for the future of working people in a post-Brexit Britain by proposing the removal of the minimum wage and unfair dismissal rights for workers employed by small businesses.

Many workers rights in the UK are derived from or have their current basis in EU law

For example laws protecting workers from discrimination on the grounds of their personal characteristics such as race, sex, age etc., the right to equal pay and treatment, the rights of agency workers and part time workers, the right to holidays and the calculation of holiday pay, the rights to daily and weekly rest breaks, the 48 hour maximum working week, certain family-friendly rights such as anti-natal care and parental leave, the right to the transfer of employment under TUPE, collective consultation rights and certain pensions rights.

It will be interesting to see which path the Government takes on employment rights as the outcome of Brexit takes shape. It is likely that any process of change will be gradual but the inclusion in the Cabinet of a significant number of right wing Tories does not bode well despite Theresa May’s apparent conversion on the road to Damascus in championing workers rights and social justice. The future of employment law and the rights of workers in the UK will be shaped by the choices that are made by the Government in the months and years ahead.

Next steps

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