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Brexit and employment law What will change?

Brexit and employment law
What will change?


It’s Saturday, March 29th. Until 10 days ago, for the best part of two years, today was set to be one of the most significant dates in British history – it was the day that the United Kingdom was due to divorce from the European Union. Of course, things haven’t turned out quite as expected. But, should we be surprised? Has anything related to Brexit turned out anything like as expected?

Quite understandably, so many people have concerns regarding the eventual outcome and how it will impact on them. Yet employers throughout the UK are understandably worried. So much rests on the final agreement. Employers are nervous, quite rightly demanding, ‘When this is all over, what will be the impact of Brexit on my business and my employees?

The purpose of this blog is to provide a little clarity amongst the chaos. Today we’ll look at …

EU Employment Law – what of its future in the UK?

The facts

Much of UK employment law originally comes from the EU. For years, it’s been part of the conditions of membership that employment laws are universally applied across the union.

So – does that mean that, once we leave, we’ll be free to cast aside all EU-derived legislation and write brand new employment laws for ourselves?

If the outcome of the current parliamentary impasse is a ‘no deal’, then the answer is ‘quite possibly’.

But, if, as is more likely, the UK leaves under some kind of a signed agreement, the answer is a decisive ‘no’. (You might also ask, with the UK having been instrumental in forming these laws in the first place, why would we even want to change?)

How can we be so sure? After all, when we’re out, we’re out. So surely, we’ll be at liberty to amend any legislation as we see fit. The reality isn’t that simple.

As part of the terms of our withdrawal, all existing EU law will be converted into domestic law. In any case, most EU Directives are already implemented in the UK by our own Acts of Parliament. Just to give you one example, the EU Equality Directives are implemented by the UK’s Equality Act 2010.

Are there any elements of UK employment law which are likely to change?

The areas of law which the UK might consider looking at include –

  • TUPE transfer and the harmonisation of contracts
  • Holiday Pay and how it’s calculated
  • The rights of Agency Workers
  • Placing a cap on compensation following discrimination claims

You don’t need me to identify which colour of government is most likely to implement which changes. That’s not a discussion for this blog.

How free will the UK be to make such changes?

It’s perfectly possible that one of the conditions of our departure from the EU will be that we’ll be obliged to stick with elements of EU employment law. There is also the issue of laws which have evolved from the decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). TUPE and Discrimination Law are typical examples. As things stand, the UK will be bound only by past, not future, ECJ decisions.

So, it’s fair to conclude that, as things stand (and who on earth can determine what the future holds for Brexit), future UK governments will not be as free as they might wish to be to amend many of our current employment legislation.



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