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Labour to force vote on retaining workers’ rights as Brexit threatens holiday pay and 48-hour week

Leader Sir Keir Starmer is one of six Labour MPs who have tabled an Opposition Day debate motion to protect employment rights which are under threat post-Brexit. - Credit: Parliament Live

Labour MPs have tabled an Opposition Day debate motion to protect employment rights now under threat as a result of Brexit. 

With the UK no longer bound by EU directives, rights enshrined in their wording – such as holiday pay and statutory working limits – can be stripped away. 

Sir Keir Starmer – together with Labour colleagues Andy McDonald, Ed Miliband, Angela Rayner, Lucy Powell and Nicholas Brown – brought the motion after Conservative business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted protections are currently under review.

This motion, to be heard on Monday January 25, comes in a week where the party passed an equivalent urging prime minister Boris Johnson not to cut the £20 uplift in Universal Credit. 

This upcoming motion ostensibly seeks to protect the rights which currently exist, alongside urging the government to legislate against the practice of firing and re-hiring.

Requesting specific protection of the 48-hour working week, rest breaks, overtime pay and holiday pay, the motion also asks that a legislative timetable “to end ‘fire and re-hire’ tactics” be laid out by the end of the month. 

Labour’s shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections, Andy McDonald, particularly condemns the timing of this move:  “In the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis, Ministers are considering ripping up workers’ rights. This could see people across the country worse off, losing out on holiday pay and working longer hours.

“Scrapping the 48-hour working week cap could mean many key workers feel pressured to work excessive hours. The government should be focused on securing our economy and rebuilding the country, not taking a wrecking ball to hard-won rights.”

Accusing the Conservatives of not sharing – or valuing – workers’ priorities, McDonald believes the mere contemplation of taking away these rights reveals the Tories’ “true colours”.

This motion, in his view, gives MPs across the House “a chance to vote on the side of working people and protect our key workers”.

A government spokesperson insisted: “There will be no reduction in workers’ rights.”