A survey has revealed that UK businesses strongly support health and safety regulations, highlighting fears over the impact of the Retained EU Law Bill, which is in the House of Lords at committee stage.
According to the research by Unchecked UK with support from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) among others, seven in 10 (69%) businesses are not willing to accept lower health and safety standards as part of the Retained EU Law Bill.
The 2,000 organisations sampled told researchers that health and safety remained a priority, with just 7% saying they were willing to accept lower standards. Fewer than a fifth cited excessive government regulation as the toughest issue facing them right now, with concerns around energy costs (70%), inflation (65%) and labour shortages (45%) coming top of the worry list.
When asked about government regulation of UK businesses, survey participants identified several advantages. The most important reason identified was to create a level playing field which would prevent firms from being undercut by businesses using poor corporate practices (34%).
The second most important reason given on the importance of regulation is its role in ensuring public trust in businesses and the products they sell (27%), while others stated that regulation provides certainty for businesses (23%), and helps UK businesses to trade in Europe and the rest of the world (22%). Only one in 20 businesses felt there were no advantages of government regulation of UK businesses.
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Nathan Davies, head of policy at RoSPA, said: “As it stands, the health and safety of Britain’s 32 million strong workforce is under threat with the way the Retained EU Law Bill proposes to deal with vital legislation – and given that almost 80% of UK businesses are not willing to accept lower health and safety standards, it demonstrates how woefully out of touch the government really is.
“We want reassurance that UK will remain a beacon of health and safety, and believe every piece of health and safety legislation should be treated with the care, attention and evidence-based approach it deserves.”
RoSPA is spearheading a campaign to change the government’s approach to health and safety legislation as part of the bill.
The Retained EU Law Bill is designed to automatically revoke most retained EU law at the end of 2023, as part of a “sunset clause”.
This would not apply to retained EU law that was domestic primary legislation.
Any retained EU law that still applied after the end of 2023 would be renamed as assimilated law.
The bill would repeal the principle of supremacy of retained EU law from UK law at the end of 2023, although its effects could be reproduced by statutory instrument for specific pieces of retained EU law.
The Law Society has stated it is concerned that the bill could lead to poor law-making and confusion for UK businesses and consumers.
It said: “The Retained EU Law Bill could have a devastating impact on legal certainty in the UK and negatively impact its status as an internationally competitive business environment.”
In employment law, the Law Society said, “workers could lose access to long-established rights that now form an integral part of Britain’s reputation as a fair society, such as holiday pay or protection against fire and rehire.” The body has called on the government to publish an exhaustive list of every piece of legislation being revoked under the sunset clause to ensure adequate scrutiny of the affected laws.
For the government, minister for industry and investment security Nusrat Ghani, has said retained EU law was “constitutionally undesirable” and that fears over workers’ rights were the result of misinformation.
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