New Brexit minister wanted to scrap EU workers’ safeguards for agency employees and pregnant women

Martin Callanan, who was appointed to DExEU last week, told the European Parliament: 'We could scrap the working time directive, the agency workers’ directive, the pregnant workers' directive and other barriers to actually employing people'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 30 October 2017 14:56 GMT
New Brexit minister Martin Callanan wants to ditch EU laws protecting pregnant women

Theresa May’s new Brexit minister has previously advocated scrapping EU workers’ safeguards for pregnant women and agency workers.

Martin Callanan – previously a Conservative MEP for the North East of England between 1999 and 2014 – expressed his desire to abolish the whole employment and social affairs directorate during a debate in the European Parliament in 2012.

In a video that has resurfaced on Political Scrapbook, Lord Callanan told the European Parliament: “There is one action we could take right now to show businesses our commitment to growth.

"Surely one of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to scrap the employment and social affairs directorate in the commission, and repatriate its responsibilities to national governments.”

“Then we could scrap the working time directive, the agency workers’ directive, the pregnant workers' directive and all the other barriers to actually employing people.”

It comes after Lord Callanan, who now sits in the House of Lords, was appointed to his ministerial role in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) last week following the departure of Baroness Anelay, who stepped down from her role due to a “worsening of an injury sustained in 2015”.

Welcoming Lord Callanan to DExEU on Friday, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “He brings with him a wealth of experience in Brussels and a proven ability in political leadership.

The right to paid holiday in the UK was introduced as part of the European working time directive while the 1992 EU pregnant workers directive led to “substantial improvements in health and safety protections for expectant and new mothers in the workplace,” according to the Trade Union Congress.

They added: “It gave women paid time off for ante-natal appointments and placed duties on employers to assess risks and to adjust working conditions, transfer a pregnant or breastfeeding worker to alternative work or suspend them on paid leave where harm is identified.”

In a previous blog on the website Conservative Home in 2008 Lord Callanan described the Working Time Directive as “typical of the EU’s prescriptive and uniform approach to workplace regulation”.

He continued: “It also just one of many hundreds of damaging health and safety rules emanating from Brussels that act as a break on our economy.

“Thankfully David Cameron is committed to withdrawing Britain from the Social Chapter from which John Major won us an opt-out in 1992 but to which Tony Blair signed us up in 1997. This is an essential step if we are ever to break free from the debilitating effects of EU regulation on our country.”

Owen Tudor, head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department, told The Independent: “Nobody voted for Brexit to make their working life harder, or to lose their rights at work. These rules protect pregnant workers and prevent people from being overworked. They improve the lives of millions of working people in Britain.

“We hope that Martin Callanan now recognises this, and will live up to the Prime Minister's promise to protect and expand workers' rights through Brexit.”

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield added: “Lord Callanan is clearly someone who, like Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Liam Fox, sees Brexit as an opportunity to undermine workers’ rights and dilute employment law.

“Theresa May needs to explain why she has appointed someone with these views to such a crucial role in her Brexit team.“

While the Prime Minister and Mr Davis have claimed that workers’ rights will not be eroded following the UK’s departure from the bloc in 2017 there appears to be no safeguards in the EU Withdrawal Bill – the legislation currently progressing through the Commons to transpose all EU law onto the UK statue book – for future Government’s to attempt to water down minimum standards.

But before the general election Ms May’s manifesto pledged to keep all workers’ rights currently guaranteed by EU law and promised the “greatest extension of rights and protection for employees by any Conservative government in history”.

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