When you look at the current landscape of employment law in the UK, much of the progress made towards employee rights has come from the EU. Annual leave, maternity rights, and even health and safety are all European directives and give workers a vast array of benefits they did not enjoy before.

And while the government is promising to protect those rights post-Brexit, it’s still a worrying time for employees all over the country. The current administration can make all the promises they like, after all. But in the future, all it will take to erode these important and hard-fought employee rights is a single vote in Parliament.

You can say what you like about the EU, but membership of the union means that you are protected as a worker by all these rights. And if a government of a future decides they fancy a change, there will be no European Court of Justice to stand in their way. Worrying times? Perhaps – and here are some of the issues that might arise.

Paid leave

All those lovely long holidays you currently enjoy are not completely down to the EU – the UK legal requirement is 28 days leave every year. However, current EU directives mean that employers must offer a minimum of four weeks leave per year, which no government attached to the EU can scrap. So, while those 28 days a year of annual leave are safe – for now – Brexit could take away that four-week safeguard and allow any future government the chance to slash standard holiday requirements. Don’t be too surprised if Brexit results in a system much like the American one, which sees the average worker being given only two weeks holiday a year.



Under current EU law, an employer found guilty of discrimination could pay an uncapped amount of money to employees in compensation. However, there has been a general feeling in Parliament in recent years that compensation should be capped, and government ministers have been unable to take action because the EU won’t let them. Post-Brexit? It’s likely that this rule on discrimination could be one of the first that is removed.

Health and Safety

There are have been great strides in health and safety for employees in the past couple of decades – thanks, mainly, to the EU. As HR specialists Ellis Whittam points out, much of the UK’s current Employment Law is entwined with EU directives – you can find out more about Ellis Whittam here. The EU’s Health and Safety Framework Directive, for example, means that employers have to make concerted efforts to keep on top of risks in the workplace. Other directives involve noise and pollution, chemicals, providing a safe environment for people with disabilities, and much more.

Maternity leave

Women are guaranteed a whole bunch of rights both during and after pregnancy. They get a minimum of fourteen weeks maternity leave under EU directives. They are also allowed to take time off for checkups, scans, and any other medical appointment as long as it is linked to the pregnancy. There are also a lot of discrimination rules in place, too, meaning employers cannot make a judgement on a woman purely because she is pregnant. There are no guarantees that the post-Brexit UK will keep any of these initiatives in place – watch this space for more details.


EU workers

It’s not a splendid time to be an EU worker in the UK at the moment. There are no guarantees that they will be allowed to stay in the country after Britain leaves the EU, and many will be feeling in complete and utter limbo. There are campaigns to provide EU workers with temporary work permits of at least two years, but no one really knows what the result will be. In short, if you are from another EU country, your position is uncertain, whether you have been here for forty days or forty years, whether you are married to a UK citizen, or have children born in this country.

Working Time Directive

The Working Time Directive gives employees the option of refusing to work for more than 48 hours per week. The idea behind the directive was to force employers to pressurize staff into working longer hours than are deemed healthy. It’s an important guideline for young people, too – no one below the age of 18 can work longer than an 8-hour day or a 40-hour week. Finally, it’s also a directive which forces employers to allow their teams to have a minimum of a 48 hour rest period over two weeks. They should also have breaks between each working day of 11 consecutive hours.