There have been many concerns about the rights of workers in the UK and what will happen now that the UK has officially left the EU. This has forced the Government to deny claims that some working protections may be scrapped. 

An article by the Financial Times has suggested that, as a result of Brexit, workers’ rights that were coded in EU law could be scrapped and replaced by UK labour laws.

The article goes on to further explain that this could affect laws such as the 48 hour working week (a cap on the amount of hours allowed to be worked in a week), changing the rules around rest breaks at work and altering how holiday pay is calculated by not including overtime pay.

However, Kwasi Kwarteng, Business Secretary, stated that the intention of the Government was not to lower the standard of workers’ rights.

Instead, Mr. Kwarteng claimed on Twitter that the Government want to “protect and enhance workers’ rights” instead of “[rowing] back on them”. He further stated that the UK “has one of the best workers’ rights records in the world”.

In addition, a spokesperson for the Government confirmed:

We have absolutely no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights. The UK has one of the best workers’ rights records in the world, and it is well known that the UK goes further than the EU in many areas.

Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard setter and protect and enhance UK workers’ rights.

In the original article, the Financial Times admitted that the “package of deregulatory measures is being put together by the UK’s business department with the approval of Downing Street” but has not “yet been agreed by ministers – or put to the Cabinet”.

Naomi Greenwood, partner in the employment team at Moore Barlow, a law firm, discussed how these proposed changes would impact day-to-day life:

The proposed changes wouldn’t impact day-to-day life greatly in the short-term. Escaping the remit of EU working time legislation would not change domestic legislation and contracts of employment overnight. In any event many employees already opt-out of the 48-hour working week.

What’s more concerning is the potential long-term impact. Courts would be free to veer away from rules dictated by the EU which could theoretically start to swing the pendulum in favour of employers’ freedom to negotiate and bargain with employees to accept more onerous working conditions.

Ms. Greenwood further commented on how this would change HR’s workload:

HR managers may find themselves negotiating more frequently with employees around the terms of employment as businesses could look to force more onerous terms on to them, which would no longer be prescribed by the EU legislation. This could lead to further disputes and grievances for HR departments to deal with.

It must be stressed that if these proposed changes were to gather momentum, nothing would happen overnight. However, it’s important that HR managers remain up to speed with the potential changes to employment law in a post-Brexit world.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.