Discrimination in the workplace - eu brexit

Day follows day; week follows week; year follows year.  In the long grind of the 9 to 5 from graduation to retirement, it can sometimes seem that nothing ever changes.  One day at work may seem like any other day at work, such that over the course of an entire career, it is easy to forget some pretty monumental changes, which have occurred in the workplace.  And many of these positive changes have been driven by the EU.

The UK had laws relating to discrimination at work prior to joining the EU.  These laws covered race, gender and disability.  However, these laws have been extended since joining the EU, and extra protections have been added relating to discrimination on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation and age.

Equality Act 2010

The Employment Equality Framework Directive and the Racial Equality Directive were agreed by the EU in 2000.  They were followed by the Equal Treatment Directive in 2006.  The Directives became part of UK legislation in the Equality Act 2010.

While it is unlikely that the UK will revoke any of these new protections, irrespective of whatever Brexit deal we eventually adopt, it is possible that some may suffer from a few ‘tweaks’ around the edges: for example, it has been suggested that a cap may be introduced on any compensation claims relating to cases of workplace discrimination, which would currently not be permitted under EU law.

Part-time workers

The Part-time Work Directive 1997 was initiated by the EU and introduced rights, which protect part-time workers from being treated less favourably than full-time staff.  The Directive came into UK law in the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.

Fixed-term contracts

The EU introduced the Fixed-term Work Directive 1999, which guarantees fixed-term employees should not be treated less favourably than any permanent members of staff.  The Fixed-term Work Directive 1999 was implemented into UK labour law with the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.

Agency workers

The EU’s Temporary Agency Work Directive 2008 introduced rights for employment agency workers, stating that they should be subject to the same working conditions as permanent staff after a period of 12 weeks employment.  The Directive became part of UK law in the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.

Flexible work and the ‘gig’ economy

In the UK it is estimated that five million people are currently employed in the burgeoning ‘gig’ economy.  The term has become a battleground for the way that a future UK labour market is envisioned, often dividing along conflicting Leave and Remain visions of the future: flexible work environment or unregulated exploitation of workers?

Meanwhile in the world of the traditional, salaried employee, day follows day; week follows week; year follows year.  In the long grind of the 9 to 5 from graduation to retirement, it can sometimes seem that nothing ever changes while things are getting better.  When things change for the worse, you know it pretty quick.  But, the quiet changes that have occurred in the workplace as a result of the assimilation of EU Directives into English law have been positive steps for workers’ rights and for countering discrimination, and the UK has benefitted from these changes, often without the workers affected even being aware of the fact.

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