Although the UK offered some protections for workers before joining the EU, since becoming a member these have improved significantly — and there is no guarantee they would stay without the EU.
Legislation decided on by members of European Parliament, that some refer to as ‘red tape’, is actually vital to protect workers across Europe and to ensure their wellbeing.
Having common rights across European countries means that British citizens seeking work abroad can expect the same rights and working conditions as in the UK. It also prevents a damaging ‘race to the bottom’, where neighbouring countries would compete to cut costs by slashing standards.
The bulk of the rights at work that matter to us originated in Europe.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC
Benefits that our EU membership brings to full-time workers include:
- 28 days of paid annual leave
- 11 hours’ daily break
- protection from dismissal under a change of employer
- health and safety protection
Rules agreed at European level ensure that part-time workers receive the same hourly pay as full-time workers, and the same leave entitlements. Temporary workers also benefit, with better access to pension schemes and increased job security.
Europe is far from perfect. But it has given us the most progressive employment legislation in the country bar none.
Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB
Fairness is a fundamental principle of the European Union, and as a result of our EU membership, British workers are protected from discrimination based on age, religion and sexual orientation and have improved protection against gender, disability and race discrimination.
Working women in particular benefit from EU membership, including:
- equal pay for work of equal value, which was not included in the UK’s Equality Act of 1970
- protection from discrimination in career selection, professions, and lifelong earnings
- a steady increase in employment rate from 67.9% in 2010 to 71.2% in 2015
- protections from dismissal when pregnant
- paid time off for antenatal care
- EU targets to provide affordable childcare so there is no choice between a career and children
In terms of employment rates, leaders of EU countries jointly agreed to set a target of 75% for the whole of the 28-country bloc, with each country agreeing its own target within that, based on current performance.