02:12, October 09 41 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-09 02:12:05
Workers' rights at risk after Brexit 'even in event of deal' – report

Workers’ rights are at risk once the UK leaves the EU even if a Brexit deal is struck, research by a leading thinktank has concluded.

The UK and the EU are both expected to agree common minimum standards for working conditions as part of the post-Brexit deal, but the Institute for Public Policy Research warns that the non-regression clauses being proposed to ensure there will be no roll-back of rights will not be a strong enough protection for workers.

The IPPR found that other trade deals struck by the EU led to a weakening of workers’ rights in places such as Peru, with the EU reluctant to get involved because it would disrupt the wider trade deal.

Instead of non-regression clauses, the thinktank is calling for a common rulebook, with the UK developing workers’ rights in parallel with the EU, overseen by a supranational court to enforce breaches.

“A ‘common rulebook’ could help the UK to become a leading light on workers’ rights post-Brexit, providing a firm basis for the UK to surpass – and not just match – EU levels of protection,” said Marley Morris, senior research follow and author of the IPPR report, A Level Playing Field for Workers.

Research by the IPPR shows broad consensus in favour of protecting flagship EU-derived worker rights, on both the remain and leave sides, including those that cover working time, breaks and holiday pay, equality and discrimination.

Morris pointed to the revision of the 2011 safety and health at work laws in Peru following the 2013 trade deal with the EU.

The laws were considered progressive, but were watered down in 2014 after lobbying by business leaders, who argued that it would add costs to their companies. “The non-regression clause did little to prevent this change,” said Morris.

British workers could also find themselves on the wrong side of lobbying by big business, the IPPR argues, unless a common rulebook is introduced in the Brexit deal.

The IPPR argues that not only is the governance and enforcement of the laws weak under the non-regression clauses, but that new EU laws will not automatically be adopted in the UK. This would mean, for example, that the proposed directive on zero-hours contract workers, may not end up applying in the UK if is not passed before Britain leaves the EU. Potential new laws giving workers entitlement “carer’s leave” to look after seriously ill or dependent relatives could also fall through the Brexit cracks, the IPPR suggests.

Even if Britain agreed in principle to adopt EU laws, in practice there will be little to enforce this.

Under a new system, workers would still be entitled to enter dispute procedures and have their cases heard at employment tribunals, but if the courts were no longer obliged to follow a higher court, the European court of justice, then you “could get a different approach by judges”, Morris added. “Over time, you could get a weakening of the protections.”

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