UK: Post Brexit EU Employment Law, MPs To Be Given A Vote

The Prime Minister confirmed that MPs will have a vote on any future rules that the EU introduces in connection with workers' rights following Brexit. She reaffirmed that the government were committed to maintaining high standards of employment law and other crucial protections such as health and safety after Britain has left the EU. This has been a key factor in gaining the support of both trade unions and Labour party MPs. It is likely that a draft bill will be announced that secures workers' protection by way of a "regression lock" that should ensure that the UK workers' protections would never fall below those of the EU.

This is a key factor in the ebb and flow of the parliamentarian Brexit saga. It is possible that the leader of the Labour party may find he is in the position of being able to push other demands on the government in return for support with the Brexit vote.

The UK's employment laws are reasonably robust and afford protections that workers in some parts of the world do not enjoy. There are areas of contention that are hotly discussed in the press, namely the gig economy, zero hours contracts, the gender pay gap and sleep-in shifts. The government has understandably been keen to draw attention to the rising levels of employment in the UK with the Office of National Statistics latest figures showing that there are an estimated 32.53 million people in work, 141,000 more than for June to August 2018 and 328,000 more than for a year earlier. There is keen debate as to whether the workers on zero hours contracts can truly be regarded as employed.

There is a raft of employment law reform aimed at the gig economy and zero hours workers planned in the government's Good Work Plan and have embraced 51 of the 53 recommendations by Matthew Taylor in his review into Modern Working Practice, including:

  • Workers to be given a statement of rights on day one setting out leave entitlements (including sick and maternity time off) and pay so that from their first day a worker is fully informed.
  • Scrap "Swedish derogation" an end to the loophole that allows firms to pay agency workers less than permanent staff.
  • In an effort to force employers to be fair and reasonable a rise of quadruple maximum employment tribunal fines for employers who are demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight from £5,000 to £20,000.
  • Extend the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks, ensuring those in seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to.

The unions have responded by saying that the new rights for the most vulnerable workers are weak and almost do not amount to actual rights, for example the right to request guaranteed working hours was regarded by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as "no right at all".

However there should be caution before radical reforms as those workers within the gig economy may not be universally advantaged by some reforms as the flexibility cuts both ways.

Good employers will have no problem in coping with employment law reformation as it is possible that they are ahead of the government in the way that they treat their employees.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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