Thank you for contacting me about workers’ rights.
I have been assured by Government they are committed to maintaining and enhancing workers’ rights following the UK’s departure from the EU. The Working Time Directive has been transposed into UK law through the Working Time Regulations 1998, and under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 these and other Regulations have been retained.
The regulations provide that, subject to certain exceptions where the nature of the work makes it impractical, employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week averaged, normally, over a period of 17 weeks. It is possible for employees to opt out of this provision voluntarily and in writing, either indefinitely or for a specified period. Employers can request that an employee opts out but cannot terminate their employment or treat them unfairly if they decline.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 remain in force during the Covid-19 pandemic. They include flexibilities in the regulations to vary or exclude some of the restrictions in special circumstances and done so by collective or workforce agreement. The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 allows carry-over of leave and payment in lieu on termination if leave cannot be taken during the outbreak. This enables staff to carry over up to 20 days (pro-rated for part-time staff) of annual leave in the following two leave years. Employers should monitor staff annual leave to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing and staff should make sure they are able to rest and recuperate.
I am aware that there have been reports in the press that there were forthcoming plans to lower the standards of workers' rights. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Business has made clear that the Government has absolutely no intention of doing this. On the contrary, he expressed a desire to protect and enhance workers' rights going forward.
I note that you mention the Opposition Day Debate on employment rights in the UK which took place on 25 January 2021. Now that we have left the EU and taken back full control of our laws, the Government has been clear that there will be no reduction in workers’ rights.
Ultimately, the UK has one of the best records on workers’ rights in the world, going further than the EU in many areas, and I am determined to build on this progress.