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Brexit could jeopardise UK workers’ rights

The UK government’s alternative to EU labour market rules could be putting UK workers’ rights at risk.

The UK’s business department has put together a package of new employment law measures, and some are concerned about the effect this could have on the 48-hour working week.

The Financial Times has said that protections such as a 48-hours maximum working week, four weeks paid holiday, rest breaks and night work restrictions could be changed now that the UK has left the EU.

However the government has maintained that any new rules will work to “protect and enhance” workers rights in the UK.

The possible new shake-up of regulations has already been disputed by trade unions.

Rachel Suff, employee relations adviser for the CIPD, said that the UK labour market already provides a good balance between providing reasonable protection for individuals and flexibility for employers.

She said: “The UK has one of the most lightly regulated labour markets in the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] when it comes to employment protection for individual workers and our research on this issue with employers shows few concerns with the current framework.”

However, she added there may be a case for some tweaks to aspects of the Working Time Regulations.

“For example where case law has led to confusing changes on holiday pay calculation or on how working time is recorded - but our research shows that overall employers are supportive of these regulations,” she added.

Suff said the big issue the government should be focusing on before looking at deregulation is improving how existing employment rights are enforced.

She said it can do this by publishing its long-awaited response to the consultation on the creation of a single enforcement body.

“An improved labour market enforcement system would be the strongest signal that the government really is committed to protecting workers’ rights.”

Malcolm Mason, employment partner at Keystone Law told HR magazine that the news that the government is planning to dilute some of the UK employment and labour laws will not come as a surprise for many.

“Afterall, one of the main issues that was campaigned about in the run up to the Brexit vote was the ability to take control of UK laws,” he said.

Mason added: “While the new business minister has denied that they will be scrapping some protections, such as the 48-hour limit on the working week, many directives, such as the TUPE, the Fixed-Term workers directive and the Framework Health and Safety Directive have always been an issue for conservative UK governments and UK businesses, they were strenuously resisted from the outset with considerable and protracted debate and argument.”

Further reading:

Equality, mental health and Brexit top concerns for employers

PM refusing to safeguard citizens’ rights in no-deal Brexit

Working hours cap unrealistic, finds report