Busting the myth. Workers’ & women’s rights come from the UK, not the EU

Graham Charles Lear
3 min readNov 9, 2019


It isn’t the EU that has been responsible for improved workers’ rights. The EU doesn’t even have minimum wage legislation.

One of the many myths about the EU is that it has been responsible for the minimum statutory workers’ rights and women’s rights enjoyed in the UK today. The truth is very different.

There is no EU statutory right to a minimum wage

  1. Within EU treaties, laws, directives, & regulations, there is no requirement to have a minimum wage

2. Six EU countries don’t have one at all (Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland, Sweden)

3. Where they exist, the uneven playing field has Latvia at the bottom, with Luxembourg’s almost 5 times higher

4. The UK is seventh on the list, with its own legislation since 1998

2. EU healthcare rights are way below UK standards

  1. Healthcare in the EU is generally not free — most people pay for top-up private insurance

2. In many countries, you pay and get only partially reimbursed later

3. In France, it costs £26 just for 5 minutes with your GP, paid at the time

4. With the UK’s NHS, treatment is free at the point of delivery

3. EU workers’ rights laws are lower than the UK’s

  1. UK statutory paid holiday entitlement is 28 days, in EU only 20 days

2. UK National Minimum Wage Act 1998 — there’s no minimum wage in the EU

3. ‘Statutory maternity pay’ — UK: up to 39 weeks, EU: 14 weeks. UK employees can take up to 52 weeks’ leave

4. Under EU laws, the Britons’ rights would only decrease

4. UK established workers’ rights long before the EU

  1. “Protection against sex, race and disability discrimination in the UK pre-dated EU law” (from TUC report)

2. Women’s rights: Equal Pay Act, Abortion Act and Divorce Reform Act were all passed before the UK even joined EU

3. Sex Discrimination Act, Domestic Violence Act, Employment Protection Act — no EU involvement

4. EU’s Posted Workers Directive means EU workers can be employed in the UK for a fraction of the cost of UK workers

5. Finally, workers’ rights are only relevant if you have work

  1. In the Eurozone, austerity has taken the jobs of millions of workers

2. You’re almost twice as likely to be out of work in the EU27

3. An entire young generation across southern Europe has been devastated by 30–50% unemployment for years

In all the workers’ and women’s rights above, the UK’s statutory arrangements are better than those which would be applicable under EU law

[ Sources: Hansard, EC Working Time Directive 93/104/EC, TUC report 2016 on Workers’ Rights, EU Commission, Competences between UK and EU Social and Employment Policy (UK Gov’t), National Minimum Wage Act, EU Parliament report Mar 2019 ]

I have one fundamental question for Remainers like Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party who try to pretend that workers’ rights protections come from the EU.

Aside from the fact that they don’t — as shown above — why on earth can’t we decide these things for ourselves? Why insist that people whom we can’t vote in or out, from other countries, should decide these things for us? Where’s the democratic oversight and control in that?



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.