Weeks after the finalization of the Brexit deal, the UK government is now exploring reforms to the workers’ rights that would break from the rules set by the European Union, and this change could potentially open Britain up to retaliatory measures from the bloc.
Officials have made a couple of proposals that would scrap the 48-hour limit set on the length of the working week, according to a source that is familiar with the subject, who said that plans are preliminary and that UK ministers have made no final decisions yet. The measures regarding the workers’ rights were first reported by the Financial Times.
Kwasi Kwarteng, a Business Secretary, said on Twitter that the government is “not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights.”
If the UK government plans are pursued, they can cause issues with the EU just weeks after the UK finalized the trade deal with the bloc.
Negotiations were dragged on until the last week of December 2020, with the so-called level playing field of fair competition rules as being in the last areas.
The agreement also allows the EU and the UK to set their own environment, labor, climate, and social policies. It also permits them for retaliation if ever any changes happen, and it will result in material impacts on trade or investment between the UK and the EU.
Enhancing the rights
The UK government is also considering changing the regulations around breaks during the working day, and there are also proposals not to include overtime when employers calculate holiday pay allowances. The UK government aims to make changes that can help support businesses and overall growth without jeopardizing worker protection.
In a statement, the UK government said, “We have absolutely no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights. Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard-setter and protect and enhance U.K. workers’ rights.”
Any proposals that do end up showing up will be put into a full consultation in the Parliament to ensure that no policies were being sacrificed and, if pursued, may have unintended consequences that will diminish the workers’ rights.
Ed Miliband, the Opposition Labour Party Business Spokesman, accused the UK ministers of “preparing to tear up their promises to the British people and taking a sledgehammer to workers’ rights.” He also said that the Labour party would “fight tooth and nail” to defend existing protections.”
Ripping Up the Rights
Miliband said in a statement that “these proposals are not about cutting red tape for businesses but ripping up vital rights for workers. The government wants Britain to compete on the back of ordinary working people losing their rights.”
While the UK cut ties with the EU when it comes to environmental rules and labor rules, the ability to free the UK from Brussels red tape was hailed by supports of Brexit as one of its great ramifications during the campaign to push Brexit back in 2016.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was one of the Brexit deal figureheads, held a conference call last week with business chiefs during which he asked them to help him decide about the regulations that should be removed now that the separation with the bloc is final.