Brexit risks “turning the clock back decades” on women’s rights, TUC report warns

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Brexit risks “turning the clock black decades” on women’s rights, according to a new report published by the TUC.

The report says the European Union has been instrumental in empowering working women and enabling them to challenge unequal pay and inequality at work.

Women workers’ rights and the risks of Brexit highlights the huge gains women have made in the workplace since Britain joined the EU.

Equal pay for work of equal value.

The original Equal Pay Act only gave women equal pay with men in the same job or grade. However, amendments won by unions in the EU allowed women in the UK to challenge employers if they weren’t getting equal pay for work of equal value.

In the past decade alone more than 300,000 women have taken equal pay claims, many based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. These include low-paid women workers, such as dinner ladies, carers and cleaners.

Rights for pregnant workers and mothers in the workplace.

Around 430,000 women workers a year have a new baby and rely on EU rights like paid time off for ante-natal appointments and protection from pregnancy and maternity discrimination

EU law required the UK government to make protection from dismissal because of pregnancy a day one right. Without this right 1 in 5 pregnant workers (80,000) would not be able to claim, as the UK government’s qualifying period for other forms of unfair dismissal is 2 years. EU law also strengthened protection from discrimination because of pregnancy or maternity leave.

Right to parental leave were also won at EU level. Hundreds of thousands of parents, particularly single mothers, rely on this right each year to help them balance work with childcare.

Equal treatment for part-time women workers.

Part-time women workers have been one of the chief beneficiaries of EU law. Part-time women workers were the group most likely not to have paid holidays before the Working Time Directive was implemented in 1998. It resulted in more than 1.5 million part-time women workers getting paid holiday for the first time.

EU sex discrimination law has also given over half a million part-time women workers access to unfair dismissal rights and statutory redundancy pay and made it mandatory for part-time women to have equal access to pensions.

The TUC says that leaving the EU would allow a government with a deregulatory agenda to make much more sweeping changes to employment law, such as reducing paid holidays, parental leave entitlements, and discrimination protections for pregnant workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Women have made huge gains in the workplace as a result of EU membership, ranging from protection against pregnancy discrimination to fairer pay, holiday and pensions.

“Brexit risks turning the clock black decades on these hard-won rights.

“I think we should all be very worried when he hear leading Brexiters like Priti Patel describing EU social and employment protections as burdens. These laws have helped to improve the lives of millions of working women.

“If we pull out of Europe all the leading employment law experts agree that it will be worse for workers’ rights. And it is women who stand to lose most.”

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Sorry but this is yet further scare mongering by “Project Fear”. There is no evidence that women’s rights will be pushed back by leaving the EU. This is the same type of claim that is flouting around social media sites that employee rights will go backwards. Whilst it is true that some employee rights have come about by EU Directives they are now part of UK Law so there is little or no chance that they can be unravilied from that law. UK women’s rights are in keeping with or in advance of many other European and Western Countires. Much of the work of EU on women’s rights is based around UN resolutions, as a member of the UN the UK is already party to those resolutions.

    Many of the Unions don’t want to leave the EU as they will lose their right on European Works Councils/Committes. I doubt any reasonable employer will disband local UK based councils which currently feed in to European Council Meeings as they are a useful conduit for communication between workforce and management. An engaged workforce means better productivity for the business which in turn should mean better reward for the work force.

    As an HR professional I would hate to see any significant changes to Employee Rights but that does not stop me believing that we would benefit from being in the global market rather than one that is restricted by the interests of other European Countrries. Long before the EU we traded with the world but on joining the EEC (as was) those links were broken and taken up by other counties. Including some of a EU partners we need to be in a position in to restablish those links and as a result improve UK standards of living including Women’s and Employee Benefits and Rights.

  2. I totally agree with Iain Young’s comments. The more I hear exaggerated claims like this, the more evident it is that they are from people that will gain by staying in. Is it any surprise that ‘leading law experts’ agree that it will be worse for workers rights if we leave? Guess who does better within a union with complex employment law? You got it, employment lawyers! I am hoping for the UK that people will start to focus on our long term future and not immediate personal gain or loss. This seems to be the focus of the sound bites we are getting from the Remain camp. It is such an important decision I believe we have a duty of care to get educated as to what it means to stay in or leave and think of the country that we will leave for future generations.

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