A vote to leave the European Union will leave workers in the United Kingdom exposed to greater risks in the workplace and will reduce employment legislation to an absolute minimum, one of the country’s leading personal injury lawyers has claimed.
Patrick McGuire warned of a ‘travesty’ against workers if the UK exited the EU after the referendum on 23rd June, arguing that decades of hard fought-for rights could be overturned by the decision to leave. The result, McGuire said, would be a catastrophic loss of legislative safeguards which could mean many more people being seriously injured in the workplace.
He highlighted the many ways in which EU laws, directives, rules and treaties have enhanced UK workers’ rights and improved workplace health and safety, expressing the belief that many large businesses wanted to remain within the EU precisely because of the laws governing how they manage their workforces.
Current EU legislation places a cap on the number of hours employees can be expected to work, as well as protecting workers from discrimination and unfair dismissal. It also ensures mandatory equal pay for male and female employees.
McGuire’s comments came after a report published by the TUC expressed the organisation’s fears that the current Conservative government could immediately start removing EU-endorsed rights and protections for workers in the event of a ‘Brexit’ this summer.
McGuire said that the government had already taken steps to remove hard-won workers’ rights by curbing trades unions’ powers, and warned that the situation would only worsen if the UK were to leave the EU.
Hugh Aitken of CBI Scotland echoed McGuire’s comments, arguing that the single market is of huge benefit to British industry. He said that ensuring EU social policy continues to support growth and employment within the UK was a top priority for British businesses.
However the head of the Labour Leave campaign, former Edinburgh South MP Nigel Griffiths, has criticised McGuire for ‘scaremongering’. Speaking in opposition to McGuire and the TUC, he argued that the real threat to workers’ rights in the UK came from dominant, right-wing governments within the EU, pointing in particular to the leaders of Germany and Poland.
Griffiths warned that anyone who thought that the EU was protecting workers’ rights in 2016 was ‘living in the past’, and said that some popular key rights such as the national minimum wage and statutory maternity pay had been introduced without the endorsement of the European Union.
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