Issue date
04 May 2016

3 May 2016

Commenting on a report published today (Wednesday) by the House of Lords European Union Committee on the process of Brexit, the TUC says the report backs up other legal experts who say that working people could face years of uncertainty and chaos if Britain votes to leave the EU.

The Lords’ reports states that Brexit would require the UK government to “review the entire corpus of EU law as it applies nationally and in the devolved nations”, and that “such a review would take years to complete”.

The view of the Committee aligns with an independent legal opinion commissioned by the TUC from Michael Ford QC, a leading employment lawyer and Employment Silk of 2015.

In his opinion, Michael Ford QC warned that Brexit could risk “legal and commercial chaos” and would cause years of uncertainty for employers and workers. He said: “All the social rights in employment currently required by EU law would be potentially vulnerable [to dilution or repeal]”.

Michael Ford QC also listed the workers’ right that he believes would be most at risk post-Brexit from a government with a deregulatory agenda. They include rights to properly-paid holidays, protections for agency workers, health and safety protections, and protections from some forms of employer discrimination – such as compensation rates, and protections for pregnant workers and older workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Here is yet another authoritative report about the risks of Brexit that should worry working people.

“Unions fought hard for better rights at work, many of which are now underpinned by EU law. But those rights – from holiday pay to protections for pregnant workers – would be under question if Britain votes to leave the EU. And it would be years before we knew if they were being kept or scrapped.

“The biggest cheerleaders for Brexit think that your protections at work are just red tape to be binned. Bad bosses will be rubbing their hands with glee if Brexit gives them the chance to cut workers’ hard-won protections.”


- The TUC commissioned an independent legal opinion from Michael Ford QC on the consequences of Brexit for UK employment law and workers’ rights. A full copy can be found at 

- Michael Ford QC’s legal opinion suggests that, based on past history and extant policy documents, the workers’ rights most vulnerable to repeal are:

  • Collective consultation, including the right for workers’ representatives to be consulted if major changes are planned that will change people’s jobs or result in redundancies (as have been used in recent major announcements in the steel industry).
  • Working time rules, including limits on working hours and rules on the amount of holiday pay a workers is entitled to.
  • EU-derived health and safety regulations.
  • Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE), i.e. the EU-derived protections to the terms and conditions of workers at an organisation or service that is transferred or outsourced to a new employer.
  • Protections for agency workers and other ‘atypical’ workers, such as part-time workers.
  • Current levels of compensation for discrimination of all kinds, including equal pay awards and age discrimination.

See paragraphs 3 and 107 of the opinion for an overview, and paragraphs 27 to 80 for full details.

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