What role will trade unions have in securing the rights of workers granted by EU law?

Since Britain's decision to leave the EU was announced in June 2016, the Trades Union Congress ("TUC") has been campaigning to ensure "a jobs and rights-first Brexit".

The Aim

The Government has said that all EU law enacted up to a certain date would be respected post-Brexit, including law relating to employees' rights.

Those rights include:

  • limits to the working week, guaranteed rest periods and minimum paid holiday entitlement, which are enshrined in the Working Time Directive;
  • the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), which protect employees’ terms and conditions when their jobs are transferred to a different employer;
  • equal pay/holiday pay;
  • anti-discrimination rights, protected by the Equality Act;
  • health and safety at work protection;
  • maternity and paternity rights; and
  • equal treatment for part-time, fixed-term and agency workers.

The TUC however not only wants to retain all EU-based rights that UK workers currently enjoy, but also wants to make sure that UK workers will be entitled to the same rights as EU workers in the future.

The TUC has therefore called on the Government to ensure that any UK-EU trade deals include a mechanism under which all current and future EU employment law is incorporated into UK law.

Trade Unions' Role

Trade Unions see themselves as having a crucial role to play in ensuring that the Government:

  • does not try to repeal existing legislation protecting workers' rights;
  • does enact all future EU legislation protecting workers' rights, even after the UK leaves the EU; and
  • does not limit the power of the Unions, or further regulate their activities. 

The Single Market

Trade Unions have suggested that the UK Government should stay in the Single Market unless an alternative method can be found to guarantee workers' rights granted by EU law, saying that staying in the Single Market would allow the UK to have a safety net and ensure that the UK is on a level playing field with the rest of the EU. Whether or not the UK remains in the Single Market is of course one of the most controversial Brexit issues.

Further Information

TUC website has a variety of information regarding Trade Unions and Brexit -

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