Rumours about reducing UK workers' rights are false - according to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng

Friday, 15th January 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Friday, 15th January 2021, 9:35 am

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has stated that ministers are not planning to “lower” UK workers’ rights.

The statement comes after the Financial Times reported that some protections brought in under EU law, such as the 48 hour limit on the working week, could potentially be scrapped as the Government plans for a post-Brexit overhaul of labour laws.

Other areas of workers’ rights that could see changes include the rules around rest breaks at work, and not including overtime pay when calculating some holiday pay entitlements, people familiar with the plans said, according to the Financial Times.

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‘The plans are a disgrace’

Labour branded the reported plans as a “disgrace” and warned that it would fight any such moves with “tooth and nail”.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s Business Secretary, tweeted: “This leak exposes the truth about the Government’s priorities, which are way out of step with the needs of workers and their families.

“In the midst of the worst economic crisis in three centuries, ministers are preparing to tear up their promises to the British people and taking a sledgehammer to workers’ rights.

“These proposals are not about cutting red tape for businesses but ripping up vital rights for workers. People are already deeply worried about their jobs and health. It’s a disgrace the Government is considering forcing them to work longer hours or lose paid holidays.

“The Government wants Britain to compete on the back of ordinary people losing their rights. Labour will fight tooth and nail against them. This is a fight about who we are a country and how we succeed.”

‘Workers’ rights under attack’

Ian Blackford, an SNP MP, also tweeted about the news.

He wrote: “Well that has not taken long for the protections we have for workers’ rights under the EU to come back under attack from the Tories. It is the same old yet again from the Tories.”

Actor and writer David Schneider, who has appeared in the likes of Whitechapel, 28 Days Later and A Knight’s Tale, wrote about the news too.

“Hard to believe that this lying Government that lies about everything should have lied when they said workers’ rights would be safe after Brexit,” he tweeted.

‘We want to protect workers’ rights’

Taking to Twitter, Kwarteng explained that the Government is looking to improve workplace protections, not reduce them.

He wrote: “We are not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights.

“The UK has one of the best workers' rights records in the world - going further than the EU in many areas.

“We want to protect and enhance workers’ rights going forward, not row back on them.”

A government spokesperson added: “Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard setter and protect and enhance UK workers’ rights.”