Behind the scenes

Government set to ditch EU rules protecting UK workers’ rights

Ministers planning to abolish entitlements and safeguards including 48-hour working week

Downing Street is planning to scrap a raft of EU protections for workers in a post-Brexit shake-up of UK employment laws.

According to “people familiar with the matter”, the contentious package of “deregulatory measures” is being compiled by the Business Department with the approval of No. 10, the Financial Times reports.

The proposals are said to include scrapping rules on the 48-hour maximum working week and rest breaks at work, and no longer factoring in overtime pay when calculating some holiday pay entitlements.

The plans reportedly also include ditching the requirement for businesses to log detailed, daily reports of working hours, saving an estimated £1bn in administrative costs. 

Business leaders have been sounded out about the plans, which have not yet been put to the cabinet. But while the rewriting of work regulations “will delight many Tory MPs”, the proposals will “spark outrage” among Britain’s trade unions, says the newspaper.

After reports of the planned shake-up emerged yesterday, Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O'Grady tweeted: “Imagine thinking attacking paid holiday and safe limits on working time is a priority right now.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband blasted the plans as a “disgrace” - a sentiment likely to be shared by many voters.

The Daily Mirror says that while the proposals will “delight captains of industry who pour millions into Tory coffers”, “grafters” who backed the Conservatives at the 2019 general election will feel “betrayed”.

The FT agrees that “there will be nerves at the top of government” about how the shake-up would be received among low-paid working-class voters in northern “Red Wall” seats.

Downing Street has insisted that any post-Brexit reforms to work rules would be designed to help both companies and their employees, with no intentions of “lowering” employees’ rights. 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng tweeted last night that the government wants to “protect and enhance workers’ rights going forward, not row back on them”.

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