A majority of employers do not want a “Brexit bonfire” of employment rights and are in favour of parental leave, working time regulations and the minimum wage, a major new survey has found.
More than 500 organisations gave their support to 28 areas of employment law, including unfair dismissal legislation and rights for agency workers.
The results contradict the views of Tory Brexiteers, such as international trade minister Liam Fox, who has said “it is too difficult to hire and fire” and that “it is intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable.”
The survey – conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Lewis Silkin employment law firm – asked employers whether they think the UK’s employment rights, including EU originated legislation, are necessary or not.
More than 90 per cent of employers asked support unfair dismissal laws, 87 percent back the minimum wage, 82 percent are in favour of parental rights, while 74 percent believe working time regulations are needed and 75 percent want agency worker laws.
CIPD employment adviser, Rachel Suff, said claims that EU “red tape” is holding back businesses were simply not true.
“While much has been written about the need to roll back important aspects of our employment law framework to free businesses of red tape, it is clear that businesses themselves recognise the value of employment protection,” said Suff.
“Many of these regulations exist to protect workers against exploitation, ensure they are paid a fair wage and prevent discrimination in the workplace and can help improve people management practices.
“Even the more controversial aspects of employment law, such as the working time regulations, have broad support from UK businesses.”
Prime minister Theresa May has said that all existing employment rights deriving from the EU, including such measures as the working time directive, will be transferred over to UK law using the Great Repeal Bill, with the government retaining the right to modify at some later stage.
However, many are concerned that the Tories will use the so called Henry VIII clauses – which allow government to change legislation without parliamentary oversight – contained in the bill to roll back rights.
Suff called for caution over workers’ rights during Brexit, saying “it is vital that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by making sweeping changes to employment legislation that businesses may not want.”
Unite assistant general secretary for legal, Howard Beckett, said it was vital that whichever government takes power after June 8 ensures that employment rights are retained and protected.
“The most basic of employment rights have been achieved through membership of the EU. Protection from discrimination in the workplace, the right to be paid during your holidays, rights as to the length of a working week and protection at times of redundancy,” said Beckett.
“This excellent piece of research confirms that good employers understand the importance of employment rights and that it is only bad employers who would seek a bonfire of employment rights following Brexit. The same thing applies to government and whoever takes office after the election must protect, maintain and further workers’ rights if they are to serve the interests of the nation.”