Toggle high contrast
Close up of Boris Johnson
i
Christopher Furlong/Getty

No-Deal Brexit: what it means for your rights at work

Author
Published date
Crashing out of the EU without a deal will give Boris Johnson free rein to strip away workers' hard-won rights and protections.

Defending rights at work is what trade unions do, day in day out.

Making sure that whatever happens with Brexit our rights at work are protected has been a key priority for the TUC over the past three years.

We set three tests for any Brexit outcome: for rights to be protected and keep pace with progress in Europe, to protect jobs, and to ensure peace in Northern Ireland.

We know a no deal Brexit would significantly risk rights at work, as well as damage our economy, jobs and public services.

That’s why we won’t stand by and let the new prime minister push through a devastating no deal on 31 October.

How does membership of the EU protect workers’ rights?

At the moment, vital protections like paid holidays, rights for part time workers, time off for working mums and dads, equal pay for women and limits on workings hours make life better for millions of people up and down the UK, and they are all guaranteed in EU law.

This means that the UK government can’t simply decide to take them away and all employers must adhere to them.

In addition to the rights themselves, workers also benefit from being able to take cases to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Courts in the UK also apply the reasoning used in decisions of the European court, which often helps to make sure that laws are kept up to date.

For example, decisions of the court have meant that women have equal access to pensions and have removed the limit on compensation for discrimination.

While we are members of the EU, trade unions can ask the European Commission to bring action against the UK government when it isn’t complying with its obligations towards working people.

In the past, this has resulted in important changes to the ways in which employers must treat people during a redundancy process.      

What will happen under no deal?

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, workers in the UK will immediately lose the ability to take challenges to the European court and its vital judgments will no longer be binding in all UK courts. This means that it will be harder for workers to enforce their employment rights.

Over the longer term, a no deal Brexit would mean that the UK government cannot be stopped from removing from UK law the hard fought for employment protections that working people benefit from.

And there will be no way to make sure that the rights of working people in the UK keep up with the development of rights of working people across Europe.

This new cabinet is packed full of ministers who are determined to get rid of rights at work wherever they can.

The Prime Minister himself has repeatedly expressed his opposition to working time protections and his newly-promoted colleagues share his de-regulated, free-market vision for the future. 

A no deal Brexit would give them a free rein to strip working people of the rights and protections that we need and deserve.

What comes next?

We’ve consistently called for an approach to Brexit that would meet our test on rights, but the government has failed to offer anything even close to the guarantees we need.

It’s deeply worrying that in the short tenure of Boris Johnson’s government, no deal has moved from being a remote possibility to the outcome that so many in the government are happy to allow.

Any responsible government would rule out no deal as simply too risky and too damaging. If the government is not prepared to change course, parliament must do all it can to stop no deal.

And whatever happens, it’s time to let the people have the final say.