banner unionsafete

Employment Rights And Health & Safety At Work Not Guaranteed After Leaving The EU

From the very start of the EU Referendum campaign, the question of worker’s rights after Brexit was fundamental in the minds of workers, Trade Unions and many Labour MPs.

Whilst the usual response from any Brexit supporter since then has been to claim that anyone opposing them with facts; are merely ‘scaremongering’ and part of ‘project fear’!

In the three years that have passed, the picture of the country called ‘Independent UK’ and a ‘World leader in Trade’; is finally being painted and it looks nothing like the above titles suggest.

Once again, worker’s rights are back in the headlines with the TUC’s response to Theresa May who has been hijacked by the Tory Right wing extremist group, the European Research Group (ERG), being entirely dismissive of promises that have no more weight than the paper they are written on.

All rationality and researching the facts have gone out of the window, it seems, as people still hang on to the lies and distortions they were fed during the EU Referendum campaign.

But even more alarming is the stance from Trade Unions such as the CWU and Unite, who having not even asked their membership for their opinion on Brexit since 2016; stand against a ‘people’s vote’. With even the Labour Party membership by a huge 72% wanting to now stay in the EU according to recent polling, is it not time that ALL Trade Unions asked their membership for their view, before making further announcements of opposing any ‘people’s vote’?

Clearly the TUC have no trust in the Tory Government with their paper claims of caring for worker’s rights, and yet it seems that TU leaders are lagging well, behind in their silence on the issue.

Following May’s empty words of promising to protect worker’s rights after we leave the EU, and the lack of any legislation to do so; Frances O’Grady, the TUC's General Secretary made this unambiguous statement in a press release issued today:

““The prime minister has made a mockery of her own claim that Britain is leading the way on workers’ rights.

These are flimsy procedural tweaks. They come nowhere close to ensuring existing rights are protected. And they won’t stop workers’ rights in the UK from falling behind those in the rest of Europe.”

She added, as if in an echo of this website’s stance from the beginning of the Brexit debate:

“What’s more, there’s nothing to stop a future right-wing government tearing up this legislation altogether.
MPs must not be taken in by this blatant window dressing. Our hard-won rights are still under threat.”

Sadly that cannot be said of All Labour’s MPs, with Kate Hoey and Caroline Flint making their objections to anything other than leaving the EU and placing worker’s rights to the hostage of fortune that Trade Deals with the USA, and future Tory Government’s hatred of worker’s rights; not to mention the current Tory leadership!

The TUC has consistently called for a long-term, legally binding guarantee for workers’ rights to be written into the Withdrawal Agreement, and argued that the best way to protect workers’ rights is to stick with Single Market and Customs Union rules.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

Sadly, previous Labour Governments have been extremely slow at clawing back the loss of Trade Union rights and the long term demise of the HSE, and the power of the employer.

Earlier this year, 30th January and following the monumental defeat of May’s Brexit deal the TUC reminded us all of the evil of Tory policy and the forked tongue of Tory promises:

The Prime Minister claimed that UK workers “already benefit from some of the most rigorous workplace standards in the world, including parental leave and pay entitlements”.

But this doesn't’t reflect the reality of working life for too many people in the UK – and it certainly doesn't’t reflect the Tory record on rights since coming to power in 2010.

After all, over the past nine years we’ve seen numerous attacks on working people’s rights. These include:

  • A failure to take meaningful action to tackle insecure work.

Despite a protracted review looking at exploitation in the gig economy (and other areas), the government still won’t even ban the use of zero hours contracts.

  • The unlawful introduction of employment tribunal fees.

This made access to justice through a tribunal unaffordable for thousands of low paid workers (and was only overturned when Unison proved in court that the government had acted illegally).

  • Extending the qualifying period for unfair dismissal protection to make it easier for employers to fire people.

This change to the law made 2.7m workers more vulnerable to being sacked for no good reason.

  • Making it harder for working people to get access to justice when they’ve been discriminated against at work.

For example, the government changed employment tribunal procedures so that employees lost the right to gather information from their employer about possible discrimination.

It also needlessly took away the ability of employment tribunals to challenge discriminatory cultures in workplaces. Employment tribunals used to be able to do this by making recommendations to employers.

  • Introducing the Trade Union Act to restrict the ability of union members to organise collectively in defence of their jobs and livelihoods.

And even when unions have succeeded in winning rights for workers, it’s often been in the teeth of Tory opposition.

The TUC has been clear all along that Mrs May’s approach to Brexit is putting workers’ rights at risk.

So many of our rights and protections at work come from the EU – and our legal advice shows that rights such as properly paid holidays, protection for agency workers and protection for pregnant women would all be at risk.

But the UK government has been arguing against new proposed European rights for parents, claiming they are too expensive.

Our government also abstained in a European vote on giving new rights to posted workers (EU migrant workers who are posted temporarily to work in another member state).

And Theresa May actually voted against some of the “rigorous workplace standards” that she refers to, including parental leave.

We also know that some senior Conservatives – who might be jostling for the top job in the future – have been clear that they want to use Britain’s exit from the EU to roll back these rights, not improve them.

And you don’t need to look any further than the Brexit deal the PM has negotiated to see how her government’s approach to employment rights is still the same.

  • As soon as we leave (and enter the transition period), the government intends to stop giving UK workers new EU rights, including new rights to paid time off for carers and dads.
  • There are no binding guarantees in the deal that UK workers’ rights will fully keep pace with workers in Europe. Whatever the PM says today about new domestic laws on employment rights is meaningless – without a Brexit deal that binds future UK governments to maintain minimum European standards, future generations could find their rights disappear.
  • And there are no meaningful enforcement measures in the deal to for employment rights. Even the limited commitments the deal does include are enforced far more weakly than other areas.

Without substantial changes to Mrs May's entire deal, working people’s rights remain at high risk.

This all boils down to one simple truth: the Tories simply can’t be trusted on workers’ rights.

That’s why the Prime Minister’s sudden change of heart on post-Brexit rights should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.

Unless the Prime Minister substantially shifts her red lines, this deal will fail people at work. And that's why trade unions won't support it.

But what do we mean when we talk of ‘worker’s rights’ Majority of the public who have no Trade Unions at their place of work, have no clue as to what this phrase means and merely take for granted that Brexit will not detrimentally affect them; after all, the media tells them that daily and ignores the injustices any Tory Government inflicts upon the working people of this country, the disabled, the elderly, and on women generally who are often hit more than men by Tory legislation and cuts.

So in order to ensure there is no dubiety, here is just a basic  list of ‘worker’s rights’ that are under threat once we leave the ‘underpinning’ that the EU provides in the form EU Directives that have been subsumed into UK legislation:

1 Health & Safety at Work: the EU ‘six pack’ legislation – manual handling, display screen equipment, rest breaks, working hours, and the management of H&S in the workplace; to name but a few.

2 Paid Holidays.

3 Maternity and Paternity leave with pay.

4 Sickness benefit paid by the employer.

5 Statutory sick pay.

6 Employment Protection legislation and Tribunals.

7 Right to Equal Pay.

8 Disability Discrimination protection.

9 Equal Rights at Work and in the community.

10 The right of information from the employer.

11 The European Court of Justice.

But perhaps the biggest loss to UK workforce that leaving the EU will cause, is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which states:

“Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity”


“Every worker has the right to a limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid leave.”

Recent cases regarding Uber and Deliveroo abuse of worker’s in terms of pay as drivers soon found themselves at the bottom of the pile when it came to jobs and their online ratings if they did not dance to the app’s demands at all hours; were only settled with the involvement of the European Court of Justice to establish the idea that even Uber drivers have fundamental employment rights.

But the major argument that supports the case against the sincerity of the PM in making her promise not to reduce worker’s rights after we leave the EU, is clearly expressed by Eloise Todd writing in the Independent newspaper today:

‘Of the many tenets of parliamentary sovereignty cast aside in the Brexiters’ supposed campaign for parliamentary sovereignty, perhaps the most important is that a parliament cannot be beholden to its predecessors. To suggest otherwise is to deny parliament the power to create or abolish laws. Any kind of lip service to a “non-regression lock” is either a misleading falsehood or a sincere attempt to destroy parliamentary democracy. For now, we’ll credit the prime minister with the former intention.’

In other words, worker's rights are a mere hostage to the fortune of the type of Government the country elects and any future trade deals with the USA which will require compatibility with American labour laws and business culture.

Source: TUC / The Independent / unionsafety

For further information, got to the E-Library Database and select 'Brexit' in the category field to search.

Designed, Hosted and Maintained by Union Safety Services