Government will use post-Brexit shake up of workers' rights to ‘stimulate business growth’ amid claims 48 hour working week could be scrapped and holiday and legal requirements for breaks will be overhauled

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The Government has vowed to 'stimulate business growth' under a potential post-Brexit shake-up of labour laws amid claims ministers could scrap the EU's 48-hour limit on the working week. 

Labour today accused ministers of planning to 'take a sledgehammer' to workers' rights after the Financial Times reported a raft of changes are being considered.

But Number 10 hit back and said there are no plans to 'lower workers' rights'. 

The Government is said to be looking at tweaking the rules on taking breaks and not including overtime pay when calculating some holiday pay entitlements that guarantee most people 25 days a year. 

The newspaper also reported ministers want to remove the requirement on businesses to report working hours, in a bid to save an estimated £1billion, and business leaders are said to have been consulted.

The Department for Business is putting together a package of measures with the backing of Downing Street, which if approved could lead to a war with Brussels if Eurocrats believe the changes breach the terms of the new post-Brexit trade treaty.

No ministers have signed off on the plans yet and the proposals have not been put to Cabinet. But a number of business leaders have been sounded out on the proposals.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said today: 'We are not going to lower workers' rights. We will continue to protect and enhance workers' rights now we have left the EU. That is not something that is going to change.  We have one of the best workers' rights records in the world.'

The spokesman added: 'We will continue to look at policies to help stimulate business growth, innovation and job creation but those policies would never be at the expense of workers' rights.' 

Commuters head to London as it emerged the Government is looking at changes to working rules it might bring in after leaving the EU

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What have ministers discussed reforming after Brexit

48-hour limit on the working week 

By law an employee cannot work more than an average 48 hours a week as one of the EU's core 'level playing field' rules.

Brussels has spent years trying to make it mandatory but many EU members, including Britain before it left, had an opt out.   

By UK law an employee cannot work more than an average 48 hours a week, unless they agree to work more hours by signing a waiver.   

Breaks 

An employee has the right to an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes if they work more than 6 hours in a day. 

In some cases, an employee might have to take this break in different ways. This could be if something happens at work that's unexpected and outside of the employer's control, such as an accident. For example, the break could be taken as 2 separate 10-minute breaks.

Overtime/paid holiday 

A 2017 ruling on overtime and holiday pay means the four weeks of annual leave is a minimum requirement under the Working Time Regulations.

UK overtime holiday pay law grants workers and employees additional time.

The Working Time Regulations are British law that includes entitlement to an extra 1.6 weeks—that makes 5.6 weeks as a minimum.

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Many Tory MPs are likely to welcome the potential shake-up of the 'working time directive' although any move to do so is likely to infuriate trade union leaders and could risk alienating working class voters, especially in the 'Red Wall' seats the party won in the 2019 election.

Some Conservative MPs believe now is the perfect time to improve regulations and do away with red tape so that the economy can recover as quickly as possible post-coronavirus crisis. 

The Government has made clear that it has no intention of 'lowering workers' rights'.

The Department for Business told the FT: 'The UK has one of the best workers' rights records in the world. 

'Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard setter and protect and enhance UK workers' rights.'

But Ed Miliband, Labour's shadow business secretary, said: 'This leak exposes the truth about the Government's priorities, which are way out of step with the needs of workers and their families. 

'In the midst of the worst economic crisis in three centuries, ministers are preparing to tear up their promises to the British people and taking a sledgehammer to workers’ rights.

'These proposals are not about cutting red tape for businesses but ripping up vital rights for workers. They should not even be up for discussion.'

Mr Miliband labelled the proposals a 'disgrace' and said Labour will fight 'tooth and nail' to stop such moves from taking place.

After the FT story was published, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted ministers are not planning to 'lower' workers' rights amid reports they are preparing to tear up key protections enshrined in EU law.  

He insisted that the Government wanted to improve workplace protections - not reduce them.

'We are not going to lower the standards of workers' rights,' he tweeted.

'The UK has one of the best workers' rights records in the world - going further than the EU in many areas.

'We want to protect and enhance workers' rights going forward, not row back on them.'

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said labour market policy was kept under 'regular review' to ensure businesses had the 'appropriate freedoms and flexibility to innovate and grow' while safeguarding protections for workers.

It said in the 2019 Queen's Speech, the Government committed to introduce an employment Bill to strike 'the right balance between the flexibility that the economy needs and the security that workers deserve'.