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Brexit risks “turning the clock back decades” on women’s rights, TUC report warns

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Brexit risks “turning the clock black decades” on women’s rights, according to a new report published by the TUC today (Tuesday).

The report says the European Union has been instrumental in empowering working women and enabling them to challenge unequal pay and inequality at work.

Women workers’ rights and the risks of Brexit highlights the huge gains women have made in the workplace since Britain joined the EU.

These include:

  • Equal pay for work of equal value – Amendments to the Equal Pay Act required by EU law have allowed hundreds of thousands of low-paid women to win pay claims against employers who undervalued their work.
  • Paid holidays for part-time women workers – The introduction of the Working Time Directive in 1998 resulted in more than 1.5 million part-time women workers gaining the right to paid holidays for the first time.
  • Pregnancy discrimination – EU law required the UK government to make protection from dismissal because of pregnancy a day one right. Without this right women would have to wait 2 years before pursuing a claim of unfair dismissal.

Today’s report comes just weeks after leading employment lawyer Michael Ford QC warned that Brexit would mean “all the social rights in employment currently required by EU law would be potentially vulnerable”.

Mr Ford said: “It is difficult to overstate the significance of EU law in protecting against sex discrimination.”

The TUC says that leaving the EU would allow a government with a deregulatory agenda to make much more sweeping changes to employment law, such as reducing paid holidays, parental leave entitlements, and discrimination protections for pregnant workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Women have made huge gains in the workplace as a result of EU membership, ranging from protection against pregnancy discrimination to fairer pay, holiday and pensions.

“Brexit risks turning the clock black decades on these hard-won rights.

“I think we should all be very worried when we hear leading Brexiters like Priti Patel describing EU social and employment protections as burdens. These laws have helped to improve the lives of millions of working women.

“If we pull out of Europe all the leading employment law experts agree that it will be worse for workers’ rights. And it is women who stand to lose most.”

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