EU membership vital for workplace rights and consumer protection

EU membership vital for workplace rights and consumer protection

A new report published by the Scotland Institute today itemises the gain of European Union membership for workplace rights, finding that there is no reason to believe the UK government would seek to improve them and that Brexit would “weaken all the gains that have come from over 40 years of EU membership.”

The Scotland Institute aims to investigate the implications of devolution while “finding solutions to the old problems of social exclusion, and to encourage Scotland’s competitiveness in the global market.”

The report points to the 1998 Working Time Directive, which gave UK workers a statutory right to paid annual leave for the first time. This resulted in six million workers gaining improved entitlements to paid annual leave, two million of whom previously had no paid annual leave entitlement (many of these were part-time women workers). This amounts to a significant financial transfer, in the form of pay, from employers to predominantly low-paid women workers.

The legislation has been supported by a series of CJEU judgments. Originally the 48 hours did not include periods when a worker was expected to be present but on-call, typical of people doing emergency work. Care wardens working for the London Borough of Harrow, won an important case when they no longer had to be on site for 113 hours a week as this included 76 hours a week “on call”.

The CJEU held that, due to the nature of their employment, time spent on-call was effectively work (as they had no choice but to be on the employer’s premises) and should be counted as part of the working week.

The report also looks at consumer rights, finding that where EU laws and protections really benefit UK consumers is in terms of e-commerce and shopping outside the UK. So far the UK government has opposed key changes but the central goal is to protect the consumer regardless of either where they live or the supplier is based.

Executive chairman of the Scotland Institute, Dr Azeem Ibrahim, said: “There can be no doubt that the European Union is a massive gain for workers’ rights and consumer protection. By definition, if the UK leaves the European Union we lose all of the benefits of membership as workers and consumers.

“The motivations of those leading the charge to the exit door tells me that these hard-won rights would very likely be lost if the UK votes to leave.

“These rights belong to the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK, and I cannot see the possible advantage in throwing them away, so that they continue to be enjoyed by people in France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and all of the 27 other countries, but not us.”

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