It’s several years since the UK voted to leave the EU. So what more do we know about how Brexit will affect our employment rights?
Brexit employment rights matters
How will your rights at work be affected?
As a lot of our laws relating to our rights at work come from the European Union, there is concern that these will be abandoned now we have left the EU.
Since we voted to leave in 2016, politicians have consistently indicated that workers’ rights will be protected, but this undertaking has yet to have legal backing. Some significant pieces of legislation originated in the EU, for example:
The Working Time Directive
The Working Time Directive is one of the most significant laws that comes from the EU. The Directive led to the Working Time Regulations which for the first time gave workers in this country the right to paid annual leave, put restrictions on the number of hours that people could work and gave the right to rest breaks.
It ensured that all employees would be entitled to a minimum of 20 days’ annual leave. However, the UK government increased this to 28 days, including bank holidays, which suggests that this may not be changed after Brexit.
On the other hand, cases in the European Court of Justice have ruled that overtime payments and other allowances must also be included in calculations for holiday pay.
So rather than repealing the right to paid holiday entirely, the government could just say that when you take your holiday you are only entitled to basic pay. For some people, this could mean that they are much worse off.
In addition, whether the government would retain the restrictions on working time (which can already be opted out of) is likely to be more of a grey area.
The Temporary Agency Work Directive
This is another law that comes from Europe. It gives agency workers the same rights as permanent staff in relation to terms and conditions, including pay.
This law is unpopular law with British businesses as it can drive up the wage bill so there is a high chance that it could be amended upon the UK’s exit from the EU. This will be bad news for the increasing number of agency workers in the UK.
In addition, a lot of our anti-discrimination laws originated in Europe, for example, the right not to be treated less favourably on the grounds of age or sexual orientation.
Maternity rights have also been strongly influenced by the EU – for example, the right not to be treated less favourably due to pregnancy or maternity leave.
Having said that, the UK also allows women to take longer time off for maternity leave than the EU dictated and we have also introduced things like shared parental leave, so it is unclear whether or not the government would seek to erode family-friendly rights at work.
Speaking at a Conservative party conference when she was Prime Minister, Theresa May said that workers’ rights were “not under threat from a Conservative government” but that they would be “protected and enhanced”.
Given recent developments in UK politics, we wonder to what extent the present government will keep to these promises.