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Brexit would hit low-paid women hardest, says TUC

JANUARY 21, 2020

The TUC has issued a stark warning today that a Leave vote could jeopardise the pay and conditions of a million people a year, if EU rules on transferring workers to different companies are torn up after Brexit.

The union confederation believes a Leave vote would make it easier for employers to impose pay cuts and worse conditions on workers in firms that are sold to a new owner, or services that are contracted out.

Government figures show that 910,000 workers per year are affected by these transfers – workers who are currently protected by the EU-derived Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE).

However, those rules could be ripped up by a Conservative government in the aftermath of Brexit.

The move would likely hit some of the lowest-paid workers, with two of the largest employment sectors in which TUPE transfers of employees are common being cleaning and domestic services.

It would also hit women hardest, with TUC analysis of labour market data finding that of 612,000 low-paid people in cleaning and domestic work, nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) are women.

Meanwhile, of the 480,000 people working in the kitchen and catering assistants sector, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) are women – the majority working part-time and therefore already precarious.

The TUC is arguing this is further evidence that low-paid female workers are most at risk of having their transfer rights torn up after a Leave vote.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said:

‘Lots of employers are itching to persuade politicians to scrap these protections – and if we leave the EU they’d have the chance they’ve been waiting for.

Low-paid women workers are especially at risk. This is because jobs like cleaners and caterers are among those most likely to be contracted out.

The best way to protect working people from losing these rights is to vote Remain so we keep the current EU rules.’

The government already made changes that weakened TUPE rights in 2013. However, EU rules prevented them going further.

Employers groups have repeatedly called for EU-derived TUPE rights to be further watered down, and unions argue Brexit would allow government the opportunity to do this, with there no longer being any guarantees from the EU against it happening.

The TUC have published a briefing on union rights after Brexit, which you can read by clicking here.

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