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29 Mar 2016

What Brexit would mean for employment rights

The Independent recently discussed what a British exit from the EU would mean for employment rights here in the UK. As the publication suggests, it could potentially take the country back to a time before the New Labour government was elected in 1997, and a number of employment rights were introduced that stemmed from EU legislation.

It is largely because of the EU that UK employees have statutory paid holiday and daily rest periods; that temporary or contract workers have the same basic rights as those with permanent contracts; that employers cannot treat part-time workers less favourably than those working full-time; and that working parents have the right to take time off work to look after a sick child.

These rules also prevent employers from discriminating against workers due to their religious beliefs, physical disabilities or sexual orientation. Critics of the Brexit strongly suggest that there is good reason to believe many of these rights could disappear if Britain were to leave the EU.

Conversely, those in favour of the ‘Out´ campaign view the EU´s impact on employment rights as ‘meddling,´ and that being bound to EU legislation is costing UK employers heavily. They argue that powers over such laws should be “repatriated” to the UK.

The publication suggests that EU employment laws have been introduced in the UK in a fairly minimalist way – for example, employees can opt-out of the 48 hours-per-week working time directive, and the right for employers to be consulted about matters that directly concern them does not apply to companies with less than 50 employees.

There are also a number of employment-related issues that are exempt from EU legislation, such as pay, industrial action and vocational training. The mechanisms for enforcing these laws are also a matter for national governments, not the EU.

If a Brexit did mean that the UK government was free to dismantle employee rights, The Independent writes, it would not be advantageous for a Conservative government hoping to be re-elected to remove rights regarding parental leave or workplace discrimination. However, it is likely that the government would amend or repeal the EU working time regulations and rules regarding agency workers.

Copyright © M2 Bespoke 2016

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