As of 1st January of this year, Britain has ceased to be part of the European Union, so what does Brexit mean for employment rights? EU law offered Britain’s workers an amount of security, including holiday pay and the working time directive. We don’t yet know whether these EU laws will be replaced by identical British counterparts or if workers will be left to the mercy of their employers.
What does Brexit mean for employment rights?
To understand what changes could happen, it’s important to understand where we are now. Here are some of the protections that British workers benefited from under EU membership:
Brexit employment rights: The working time directive
During our membership of the EU, Britain had to follow the working time directive, which protected workers’ rights to decent working hours, regular days off, annual leave and suitable breaks between shifts. At time of writing, it is not known whether these rights will be incorporated into UK law or not. Given that the UK asked for an opt-out clause back in 1998 when the working time directive first came about, perhaps a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” approach may be the safest for Britain’s workers.
Brexit employment rights: Holiday rights
Under EU law, British workers were allowed to accrue paid holiday during time away from work, e.g. maternity leave. When the law was introduced by the EU, it stated that workers must have a minimum of four weeks paid holiday per year. The UK immediately bettered this and provided its workers a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid holiday. This paints a hopeful picture for whatever new legislation the UK adopts instead of the EU’s.
Brexit employment rights: Discrimination
EU workers are also protected against discrimination in the workplace. It is believed that British workers will retain this protection under the UK’s Equality Act 2010. In other words, though the European directive no longer applies to us, there is some protection afforded by our own Act.
Fortunately for employers, there is talk of the government introducing a cap on compensation payouts in discrimination cases. This was uncapped in EU law; the cap would show an improvement for employers but not for victims of discrimination. (Of course, the best thing to do is not to discriminate in the first place, and then you don’t have to compensate anyone!)
Brexit employment rights: Conclusion
As it stands at the moment all EU laws have been transferred to British laws, so it is up to the Government of the day to decide policy moving forward. It is early days and there is much still to be decided. Britain voted to leave the EU; having chosen its future, it must learn to stand on its own two feet. The status of old and new laws has yet to be tested and no new precedents have yet been set. I hope the government will exercise its new freedoms responsibly and that workers will be as well protected now as they were under EU law.
- Pro EU: Unsplash