With the referendum looming, there has been a lot of discussion over what would actually happen if we were to leave the EU and go our separate ways. A topic that many people understandably have concerns over is our employment rights. Will they still stand should a Brexit occur? Or will we be left in the lurch when it comes to our jobs? In the past, many basic rights that we perhaps take advantage of in the workplace, such as maternity leave, holiday pay and the right to work free from any discriminations have been neglected from debates. The debates tend to focus on migrant welfare and child benefits, so what will really happen to our rights in the workplace that supposedly exist because of our EU involvement, if we decide to go?
The laws within the work place such as maternity leave, were introduced to the UK in the form of directives from the EU, but then implemented with new laws in the UK, so if they were to be overturned, they couldn’t be without parliamentary permission. This basically means that our employment rights may not be in as much danger as some might think. In fact, our rights in the workplace often exceed what is the EU minimum, maternity leave for example being 52 weeks in the UK, a big difference to the minimum of 14 weeks that the EU requires, leaving it doubtful that much change would occur should we leave. The same goes for holidays, with UK exceeding what is required in the EU.
Little to no change
Brexit know that any changes to these rights would be extremely unpopular with the British public and is not likely to swing voters, so they are keen to show how things will not change. We have strict discrimination laws within our workplaces and any changes to these would not be met with open arms. If things were to change, and Vote Leave won the vote, the withdrawal from the EU would be a lengthy process, and the status quo is not likely to change during this time. Although no-one knows what a Brexit would mean for the UK’s relationship with the EU until it happens, it is likely that the UK government will be required to stick to existing employment laws. Although sometimes forgotten/taken advantage of, a worker’s basic employment rights such as the right to breaks and paid holiday is important to them, and a government that dares mess around with something that is so ingrained into the way the UK works, would be an unpopular one – something of which they are extremely aware. Needless to say, if any unlikely change to rights did occur, aspects such as the minimum wage do not derive from our EU membership and so would not be affected.
Up for review
However, there are some rights that hang in the balance ahead of the big decision, such as holiday entitlement to those that go off sick, workers may not have the right to carry their holiday entitlement to another year. Redundancies may also be affected, with a Brexit meaning workers may not have the right to be informed or consulted of redundancies before they occur. As it stands, compensation can be provided to anyone that successfully files a discrimination report, with no caps or restrictions, leaving the EU may restrict this. The treatment of agency workers at the moment, are expected to be the same as those in permanent employment, as well as requiring record keeping, that is a pet hate with employers. It is believed this right may suffer in the hands of a Brexit.
Life after the EU
Life after the EU, should Britain choose to leave, is pretty much unknown at the minute, but it is unlikely that a relationship built over 40 years, will completely breakdown. At a minimum, it is expected that some form of trade relationship will remain, and there would be a possibility of alternative set-ups such as a unique relationship between the EU and the UK. All of this being said, it seems that there should be little concern over what will happen to our employment rights should a Brexit occur, as things probably wont change much from what we already know.