Employment rights are safe post-Brexit – they often already go further than the minimum required by Brussels

Employment rights are safe post-Brexit – they often already go further than the minimum required by Brussels

We must stay in the EU to protect our employment rights, or so the Remain campaigners continue to claim. But please do not worry. This statement, like many others made during the heat of battle, does not survive contact with post-Brexit reality.

On exiting the EU your boss will not suddenly be able to dispose of you because of a whim, nor will children be sent up chimneys. Brexit means that British society, through our mature and representative democracy, can freely decide what our workplace should look like – and quickly adapt as the world moves forward.

Workers have nothing to fear from leaving the EU. In theory once we are free from Brussels our government of the day could strip us of all protections, but that is not going to happen. Before Christmas, Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, said:

“This Government places a great deal of importance on the fundamental protections that workers in the UK have. Whether protection from discrimination or unfair dismissal, equal treatment—working full time or part time— or the right to a minimum wage or to paid holiday, the Government are committed to safeguarding those rights.”

Meanwhile, Point 7 of the Government’s 12-Point Brexit Plan could not be clearer:

7) Protect workers’ rights. Not only will the government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, we will build on them.

No government will err from the above because it is morally right to create a fair and safe work place; politically, people are unlikely to vote for a worse existence; and, ultimately, our economic prospects benefit from having a strong workforce. The future for Britain’s economy is to produce top-quality services and products through having a high-skilled and highly-productive workforce. We will never be able to make average widgets cheaper by paying lower wages than Romania, nor, as our history proves, would we want to.

We can be proud of the protections Britain has given workers over the years. In the 19th century, Parliament passed numerous laws to reduce workers shifts and erode child labour. The introduction of National Health Insurance in the early 20th century meant that Britons had access to the best welfare system in the world. And providing our workers the environment they need to do well in life did not stop once the EU was created.

Indeed, our employment rights often go beyond what is required by EU law. For example, British women can have up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay, not just the 14 weeks proscribed by the EU. Our Parliament decided that parental leave can be shared by the father, progress that the EU is too scared to contemplate. British workers are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of holiday, more than the four weeks set by Brussels.

We do not need the Brussels nightwatchman to make sure that workers in Britain have the working conditions they deserve. Those who spread fear about the erosion of employment rights insult our independent judiciary, parliamentary sovereignty and all those who cast a vote at election time. Brexit means that we can freely decide what employment rights we need to be a rich and happy country, and I trust us to do a good job.