A year of uncertainty? The Retained EU Law Bill 2022 and UK workers' rights

Posted on

Houses of parliament © Marcin Nowak - Unsplash

New analysis from the Work Foundation at Lancaster University reveals that Government plans to rush the ‘sunsetting’ of EU laws by the end of 2023 will put the rights and protections of more than 8.6 million UK workers at risk.

Workers on part-time, fixed-term or agency worker contracts will be most at risk if the Government presses ahead with post-Brexit plans to amend, replace or scrap thousands of pieces of retained EU Law by 31 December 2023 without greater parliamentary scrutiny.

Working time directives and entitlement to paid holiday are amongst the regulations that could be weakened as a result of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022, as well as laws which ensure people in insecure work – including agency workers, part-time workers and those on fixed-term contracts – are not treated unfairly when compared to their peers in full-time or permanent employment.

Graph to show analysis

Part-time workers most at-risk – with women more likely to be impacted

8.2 million part-time workers in the UK fall into the most at-risk category – with women more vulnerable than men. In the UK, 72% of part time workers are women, whereas only 40% of full-time UK workers are women. Rushing this Bill through could see part time workers treated differently to their peers when it comes to areas like pay and leave, pension opportunities and benefits and training and career development.

Workers on fixed-term contracts vulnerable to sunsetting

Three quarters of a million workers on fixed term contracts in the UK (56% are women) are also amongst the most vulnerable, and would face an uncertain future without protection from the EU-derived Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002. This important piece of legislation helps employees to insist that their fixed-term contract is converted into a permanent one in certain circumstances – and has led to significant improvements in pay and conditions with better access to workplace pensions for many temporary staff in the UK, according to the TUC.

Agency workers – third group to face uncertainty

There are nearly three quarters of a million agency workers currently in the UK and they are the third group that will be most impacted by the Retained EU Law Bill. Of these workers, nearly a third work part-time and 28,000 are on a fixed-term contract – so also have protection from part-time and fixed-contract regulations derived from the EU. They also have the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 which could be lost at the end of this year, which provide agency workers with the right to the same “basic working and employment conditions” as direct employees.

The briefing recommends that the Government amends the proposed legislation to include an assumption in favour of assimilating EU retained law into UK law, before launching an Employment White Paper consultation capable of properly considering how best to enhance worker rights in the UK.

Read the full briefing here

Related Reports

Back to report listing