We’re not about to descend into political discussion. Over here at My Job Hub we try to sit firmly on the fence of politics and basque in our neutral territory. One topic that we thought may be pertinent to raise, what with the looming Referendum this June, is the European Union and it’s impact on laws affecting UK HR and Recruitment.
One thing that we do know is that Britain hasn’t struggled to make laws, in fact, in many instances we have led the way with the quality of Acts and Legislation that have protected our workers and improved the workplace over the last century. Thanks to the harsh working conditions of the Industrial Revolution and the changes in gender balance following the Second World War, Britain was forced to implement drastic legislation affecting the workplace, improvements which continued into the dawn of our EU membership.
Since 1991, amongst the good decisions and the questionable, we can thank the EU for implementing the following gems that have changed our workplace (hopefully for the better)
• Minimum paid annual leave (now 28 days a year including bank holidays)
• Additional rights for agency and temporary workers and for part-time workers
• Current pregnancy and maternity leave rights
• Parental leave
• Working time (which includes a maximum of a 48-hour week unless you agree otherwise, and minimum rest breaks each day)
• Equal pay
• Anti-discrimination rules on race, sex, disability, age and sexual orientation
• Data protection rights
It doesn’t stop there. There are also employment laws derived from the EU regarding transfers of undertakings (when the business you work for is sold or taken over), collective redundancies, and works councils (giving employees the right to receive information about a business and be consulted about some of its activities).
The UK has traditionally been among the most active opponents of European employment rights, only grudgingly accepting many of the social aspects and only when it has had to. In many cases, such employment rights have been seen by the government to frustrate a flexible workforce and add red-tape to businesses.
In some cases the government has managed to block the introduction of European rights altogether through its vote on the Council of Ministers. But in other cases the European workplace agenda carries on. The government is, for example, presently being forced to adopt a EU directive for additional parental leave – its preferred option is to increase leave to up to 18 weeks a year, which is the minimum implementation of EU requirements.
In 2009 the European court of human rights ruled that workers who are sick during their holiday period can claim back their time, and this was adopted as part of UK law in 2012. And in a separate case the European court said you cannot be discriminated against for your political beliefs (this is not presently covered by existing UK employment law).
However, with Cameron welcoming last week’s European ruling that a policy which banned wearing religious symbols was an infringement of human rights, there are indications that not every employment ruling emanating from Europe is bad. And it is hard to see that the anti-discrimination laws now in force would ever significantly be watered down.
Yet the government does seem intent on eroding employment rights where they are viewed as being bad for business (even if businesses themselves don’t always agree).
Unfair dismissal rights have been watered down, and soon it is likely that workers will face fees for issuing a claim in an employment tribunal. There is also the proposed “employee-owner employment contract” where you give up your employment rights for a share in the business. Most parties were against this idea when consulted, but the government is going ahead nevertheless.
The difficulty with changing existing EU directives is that once adopted they are almost impossible to remove, as repeal requires the consent of the other EU member states. So an exit or renegotiation of terms will be the only way. If this really is on the cards, you may want to make the most of your holiday time and other extended rights courtesy of the EU while you still can. Perhaps a nice trip to Brussels?
Whichever way 2016 pans out for our membership to the EU, one thing is certain, our current recruitment and employment landscape has been indelibly marked by our