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UK at “real risk” of losing ground to the EU on workers’ rights, says TUC

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  • Union body challenges the UK government to match upcoming EU improvements on workplace rights

The TUC has today (Wednesday) challenged the UK government to keep the pace with the EU on workers’ rights, and says the UK is already at “real risk” of falling behind its European counterparts on this issue.

The call comes three months after the UK-EU deal came into force. The TUC says that the EU has various initiatives in the pipeline which will benefit workers once they become law in Member States – but points out that the UK has no similar legislation on the way.

The following directives were passed before the UK left the EU, which the UK government has not implemented:

  • work-life balance directive, which gives dads the right to day one paid paternity leave and gives all workers the right to request flexible work;
  • transparent and predictable working conditions directive, which gives workers compensation for cancelled shifts, predictability of hours for zero hours contracts, and a right to free mandatory training.

In addition, the following initiatives are currently being considered by the EU:

  • improved working conditions for platform workersby giving them rights enjoyed by employees;
  • a right to disconnect, which would grant workers the right to digitally disconnect from work without facing negative repercussions;
  • mandatory corporate due diligence, which would ensure the rights of workers along the supply chain are respected and hold employers liable for these.

The TUC is calling on the government to match the EU on these improvements and fast-track the long-awaited employment bill to further boost workers’ rights.

In 2019, the government promised that it would bring forward a new employment bill to improve people’s rights at work. But there has been no sign of the legislation since it was first announced in the Queen’s Speech over a year ago.

The union body says that the prime minister has repeatedly promised to “protect and enhance” workplace rights after our departure from the EU, and adds that improving workers’ rights and pay is a key test of the government’s much vaunted ‘levelling up agenda’.

The TUC also says the post-Brexit trading figures have been “deeply concerning”, while acknowledging that it is too early to make definitive conclusions about the long-term impact on trade from our EU exit. The trade data for January showed exports to the EU were down by over 40%.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“If we are to build back fairer from this crisis, upgrading workers’ rights has to be a priority.

“But just three months after the UK-EU deal came into force, we’re already at real risk of losing ground to the EU on workers’ rights.

“Again and again, Boris Johnson promised that his government would protect and enhance workers’ rights. It’s high time the prime minister lived up to his word.

“As a bare minimum, the government must keep the pace with the EU on rights. And ministers must bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to end exploitative work practices like zero-hours contracts, once and for all.”

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