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European Worker Rights Laws to be Reviewed?

Despite previous denials, the government is considering amending some key EU enshrined employment laws which protect workers.  According to a BBC report, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has confirmed some employment laws will be reviewed, but he also says that worker rights will not be diluted.

According to the report, the working time directive is set to be reviewed which could mean that workers are no longer protected by having a 48 hour maximum working week.  However this would be a very significant and controversial change so it is difficult to imagine the complete removal of the working time directive, but perhaps more likely would be a tinkering around the edges.  Throughout the Brexit process there was a lot of discussion regarding employment law and concern that worker rights could be eroded.  In addition to the working time directive, AWR is regularly speculated as one such area for reform, and rumours of this are once again circulating but it is too early to know if it will be a priority.

It is important to remember that the Brexit deal includes “level playing field provisions” intended to avoid either side gaining unfair competitive advantage by undercutting the other’s employment standards. Although the UK’s employment law is not required to align with EU regulations, the Brexit agreement states that each party shall ”continue to strive to increase their respective labour and social levels of protection”.  In essence, it is unlikely there will be radical changes to UK employment law, particularly if it lowers the levels of protection for workers.

Whatever aspects of employment law the government decides to review initially, we would expect legislative change to be included in the Employment Bill due later this year.  In fact the Employment Bill was originally mentioned in the Queen’s Speech delivered in October 2019, so it is long overdue, and there are many other changes already in the pipeline in addition to any post-Brexit amendments.

For a useful summary of the impact of Brexit, listen to our podcast here.

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