Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted ministers are not planning to “lower” workers’ rights amid reports they are preparing to tear up key protections enshrined in EU law.
The Financial Times reported that the 48-hour working week could be scrapped under Government plans for a post-Brexit overhaul of labour laws.
Labour described the reported plan as a “disgrace” and warned it would fight any such moves “tooth and nail”.
However, Mr Kwarteng insisted that the Government wanted to improve workplace protections – not reduce them.
“We are not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights,” he tweeted.
“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.”
The Government wants Britain to compete on the back of ordinary working people losing their rights. Labour will fight tooth and nail against them. This is a fight about who we are as a country and how we succeed. (3/3)
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) January 14, 2021
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said labour market policy was kept under “regular review” to ensure businesses had the “appropriate freedoms and flexibility to innovate and grow” while safeguarding protections for workers.
It said in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the Government committed to introduce an employment Bill to strike “the right balance between the flexibility that the economy needs and the security that workers deserve”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will continue to look at policies to help stimulate business growth, innovation and job creation but those policies would never be at the expense of workers’ rights.”
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said Labour would strongly oppose any moves to reduce existing standards.
“These proposals are not about cutting red tape for businesses but ripping up vital rights for workers. They should not even be up for discussion,” he said.
“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.”