Parliamentary scrutiny committee slams government plans to tear-up workers’ rights derived from EU

Tory-chaired Lords committee warns of “significant risk” that key rights could be accidentally lost

3 Feb 2023| News

Photo credit: Garry Knight

The Lords committee tasked with scrutinising legislation has today (Friday) published a scathing report on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which slams government plans to rip up key workplace rights.

The bill will automatically start the countdown for thousands of pieces of EU legislation currently transposed into UK law – including vital workplace rights such as holiday pay, rest breaks and health and safety rules protection from discrimination.

These and many other essential protections will disappear from the end of this year – unless ministers table new regulations to retain them.

Key protections “accidentally lost”

The Lords scrutiny committee, which is chaired by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson, warns that key protections could be accidentally lost from the statute book.

The report says: “The scale of the task, both in terms of cataloguing a definitive list of relevant legislation and the deadline by which it has to be achieved, as a result of the sunset provisions is extraordinary and deeply troubling.

“The work is still ongoing, and we remain wholly unconvinced that there is not a significant risk of inadvertent omission and that some pieces of REUL will fall by accident.”

The scrutiny committee report also says the bill runs “counter to the principles of parliamentary democracy”.

The chair of the scrutiny committee Lord Hodgson is on record as having voted for Brexit.

A separate report also published today by another Lords committee (Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee) has said that the bill is “sufficiently lacking in substance not even to be described as skeletal”.

Wrecking ball to rights

The Conservatives are threatening to take a wrecking ball to hard-won workers’ rights, the TUC has warned.

The union body is calling on the government to drop the retained EU law bill before “lasting damage is done”.

The Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) – a group of independent experts brought together by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to examine the impact of regulation on business and civil society – branded the legislation “not fit for purpose”.

The body added that the government had failed to make a “sufficient case” for sunsetting workers’, environmental and consumer rights. 

Unions, business groups, environmental groups and civil society have all voiced their opposition to the bill.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The Conservatives are threatening to take a wrecking ball to hard-won workers’ rights. This reckless bill puts at risk vital workplace protections – like holiday pay, safe working hours and protection from discrimination. These protections are all essential – not a nice to have. But without action, they will fall off the statute book by the end of 2023.

Even the government’s own independent experts dubbed the bill not fit for purpose. And now the parliamentary committee tasked scrutinising legislation has warned key rights could be accidentally lost forever.

Working people face a double whammy as ministers launch an assault on their right to strike and on their key workplace protections. The Conservatives do not have a mandate to slash and burn people’s rights at work – they must drop this bill before lasting damage is done.”

TUC polling published in October 2022 revealed that seven in ten (71%) of voters support retaining EU-derived workers’ rights like holiday pay, safe limits on working times and rest breaks.