The TUC has warned that the UK could be at “real risk” of losing ground, compared to the EU, when it comes to workers’ rights. 

In light of Brexit and the changes which have occurred as a result, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is urging the Government to keep pace when it comes to workers’ rights.

In the trade deal struck up between the two sides, both the EU and the UK agreed that they would not weaken or reduce the level of employment rights in a way which could impact trade or investment.

Despite this, this still allows the UK to make minor changes to employment law in a way which will not renege on the agreements made in said deal.

The analysis warns that, whilst the EU has many initiatives on the way which will be of significant benefit to workers, the same cannot be said for the UK.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Business Secretary, previously argued 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”.

However, the research points to several directives which were passed before the UK left the EU but which the UK has not implemented themselves.

These include:

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

Furthermore, there are several initiatives which are being considered by the EU but not by the UK, at present:

  • Improved working conditions for platform workers by giving them rights enjoyed by employees
  • A right to disconnect – Granting workers the right to digitally disconnect from work without facing negative repercussions
  • Mandatory corporate due diligence – Ensuring the rights of workers along the supply chain are respected and hold employers liable for these.

As such, the TUC is urging the Government to match the EU on these improvements, strengthening the rights of workers in the UK.

In early 2021, there were reports that the Government were allegedly planning to scrap workers’ rights that were coded in EU law including the 48 hour working week and reforming rules around rest breaks at work and holiday pay. However, this review of labour laws is now no longer underway, according to the Government.

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.

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.





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.