Britain denies wanting to reduce workers’ rights post-Brexit

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The British government said it had no plans to lower standards on workers’ rights, rejecting a Financial Times report that a shake-up of EU labour regulations as part of a post-Brexit overhaul was in the works.

The FT reported on Thursday that the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy was proposing changes focused on ending the 48-hour working week, rules around rest breaks, and not including overtime pay when calculating some holiday pay entitlements, citing people familiar with the plans.

The measures were being prepared with Downing Street’s approval but have not yet been agreed by ministers or put to the cabinet, the FT said.

In response, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government wanted to build up workers’ rights.

“We want to protect and enhance workers’ rights going forward, not row back on them,” Kwarteng said in a tweet.

A government spokeswoman added: “We have absolutely no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights.”

“The UK has one of the best workers’ rights records in the world, and it is well known that the UK goes further than the EU in many areas. Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard setter and protect and enhance UK workers’ rights.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants to use Britain’s exit from the European Union and the end of what many in the ruling Conservative Party believe to be the bloc’s restrictive rules to benefit business growth.

The government is having discussions with businesses in a wide-range of sectors to try to gauge how to use what it calls its new freedoms from the EU to boost growth.

But many opposition lawmakers and trade unions fear the government will use its new freedom from EU rules and regulations to diminish rights rather than build on them.

Ed Miliband, the business policy chief for the opposition Labour Party, said the government’s priorities were “out of step with the needs of workers and their families”.

“These proposals are not about cutting red tape for businesses but ripping up vital rights for workers,” Miliband said in a statement.

Main Photo: Pedestrians walk by the river Thames during third national lockdown in London, Britain. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

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