I have finally found time to read Michael Ford QC’s advice on the impact of Brexit on workers’ rights which was commissioned by the TUC and published earlier this month. And I’m glad I did.
Predictably, Michael Ford gives an overview of all the employment rights that we can thank Europe for. However, more interestingly, he also gives a detailed overview of the political context in which each of these employment rights was enacted in the UK, including situations such as the Working Time and Agency Worker Directives, where the protections were brought in begrudgingly by a sceptical UK government.
He recognises certain areas such as sex, race and disability discrimination which both predate EU law and are far too politically charged to be entirely repealed post Brexit. However, he also paints a fairly bleak picture for the safety of several other rights, most notably, collective consultation, working time (including annual leave), family friendly rights, rights for agency and other atypical workers, equal pay and age discrimination.
As a lawyer in the outsourcing arena, his comments on the future of TUPE are of particular interest. On this subject he concludes that ‘Brexit offers the real possibility, highly detrimental to many precarious workers, of a return to the position in which transfers terminated employment tout court, with no more than the low levels of redundancy pay payable to those with sufficient continuity, or in which an employer can readily adjust terms downwards post-transfer by the simple device of dismissal and re-engagement.’
Ultimately, if Brexit happens, no rights deriving from EU law are safe but this is a political, rather than legal issue. How far will even the most deregulatory minded government go in repealing the employment protections? According to Michael Ford, further than you might think….
All views my own. This post does not give legal advice.
The independent legal opinion, commissioned by the TUC from Michael Ford QC of Old Square Chambers, identifies the dangers of Britain leaving the EU for working people and their rights at work. It lists the rights that would be most at risk of being diluted or scrapped after Brexit, and it considers the mechanisms for disapplying EU workplace laws in the UK.