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Contemporary context

Since the UK became a member of the European Union in 1973 an increasing volume of legislation and directives relating to protecting the rights of people in the workplace has emanated from Europe. The European Working Time Directive (EWTD), for example, is a European law which seeks to protect the health and safety of workers. It was enacted into UK law in 1998 as the Working Time Regulations.

Parliament, however, still has a role to play in monitoring and debating the extent of the EWTD which, like all European Union directives, needs to be passed into national legislation by member states. In the UK it is also possible to "opt out" of the provision which sets the maximum length of a working week to 48 hours in 7 days.

In 2009, when the Government decided that the maximum hours junior medical staff in the NHS can work would be reduced from 58 to 48 under European law, this was a change debated by Parliament.

Further, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in July 2015 that the UK Government would introduce an increased compulsory minimum wage for all staff aged 25 and over. In April 2016, the National Living Wage was introduced.


Page last updated August 2016.


Related information

Current parliamentary material on employment