UK

Reality Check: Is UK behind Europe on workers' rights?

Owen Smith saying: Our country is rapidly becoming the sick man of Europe when it comes to workers' rights.

The claim: The UK is rapidly becoming the sick man of Europe when it comes to workers' rights.

Reality Check verdict: The UK does comparatively badly at holiday entitlement and allowing zero-hours contracts, but comes higher up on guaranteed maternity leave and the minimum wage.

Labour leadership contender Owen Smith has said the UK is "rapidly becoming the sick man of Europe when it comes to workers' rights".

A study by the recruiter Glassdoor published in February this year compared a range of employee benefits across 15 European countries and the USA, and its report, on the whole, seemed to agree with Mr Smith.

The EU sets a minimum holiday entitlement of four weeks a year, not including bank holidays.

UK workers can expect a minimum of 20 paid days off, or 28 with public holidays.

Of the 15 countries Glassdoor looked at, the UK was near the bottom of the pile, trailed only by Switzerland with a minimum 24 days off in total.

Meanwhile, Swedish and Austrian employees should be among the best rested in Europe, with 37 and 38 days off respectively, including public holidays.

UK employers must offer a minimum of 28 weeks' sick leave at £88 a week.

In contrast, at the top of the table, workers in the Netherlands can take up to two years of sick leave at 70% of their full salary.

The UK also offers some of the least generous unemployment benefits.

But it ranks highly on minimum wage - above Germany, France, the Netherlands and beaten only by Ireland and Luxembourg.

And when it comes to maternity leave, the UK offers considerably more than the EU minimum, and more than comparable countries.

UK mothers receive at least 52 weeks' leave.

Germany and France offer much closer to the 14-week minimum set by the EU.

But this does not equate to the highest maternity pay.

In a number of countries, including France and the Netherlands, new mothers get 100% of previous earnings for the whole of their maternity leave.

For UK new mothers, 39 of the 52 weeks are paid: the first six weeks at 90% of previous earnings, and the remainder at just over £140 a week.

The exact order of the employee benefit league table changes depending on exactly how you measure things - for example, some countries offer statutory leave on top of your holiday allowance for special occasions such as marriages, some have different statutory minimums for different ages.

You can explore some of the benefits available to workers around the EU here.

Mr Smith also referred in his speech to plans to clamp down on zero-hours contracts.

Contracts with no minimum number of hours are not allowed, heavily regulated or not generally in use in 19 European countries, something that has been held up as an example in the past by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.



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