Updated: 1st March 2021
The issue of workers’ rights after we leave the EU has always been a key topic during Brexit negotiations, with European leaders keen to maintain a so-called ‘level playing field’ to avoid the potential for economic competition.
Theresa May’s deal included provisions to retain the current framework that protects workers’ rights in the UK, but changes were made to the agreement when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.
Workers’ rights don’t now form part of the Withdrawal Agreement that is bound in law – they’ve been moved to the Political Declaration, which isn’t legally binding. So what exactly is the level playing field, and what will happen with regard to the rights of UK workers after January 31st 2020?
The European Union operates using the premise of a level playing field to ensure fair competition amongst its members. In relation to workers’ rights, if businesses in one member state were allowed to lower their standards, that country could gain a competitive advantage over others in the EU - via reduced operating costs, for example.
The EU is concerned that if the UK moves too far from the level playing field premise, member states could be placed at an economic disadvantage.
Workers’ rights issues include, but aren’t limited to:
Essentially, the EU regulations on workers’ rights provide a minimum level that must be met by all member states, but there’s concern that the UK may lower standards once our membership ends.
The government will begin the next phase of negotiations on the long-term future relationship with the EU during a transition period of 12 months. A ‘summit’ is planned for June 2020 to assess the progress of negotiations, and presents the final opportunity for the government to request an extension to the transition period beyond the end of the year – potentially to December 31st 2022.
An agreed trade deal with Europe by December 31st 2020 is the priority on this agenda, however, so workers’ right may not be discussed until 2021 onwards given the general complexity of these talks.
For more information on workers’ rights after Brexit, and the implications for both workers and employers, call our team of experts at Real Business Rescue. We’re a major part of Begbies Traynor Group, the UK’s largest professional services consultancy, and can provide the professional guidance you need. We operate a network of offices throughout the country, and offer same-day consultations free-of-charge.
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