What will Brexit mean for Employment Law in the UK?

The people have spoken and a decision has been made to leave the European Union. However what will this mean for employment law in the UK?

In reality, nothing is likely to change much in the short-term.

It is likely to take at least two years (maybe even longer) before the UK actually leaves the European Union due to the complex issues involved.

What type or relationship the UK may have with the European Union is very uncertain at this point in time.

However in the meantime it is likely that whilst the withdrawing negotiations take place, the status quo is broadly expected to continue.

The reasons for this are as follows:-

  • A raft of significant changes to employment law will lead to unwelcome confusion and uncertainty for employers as well as the potential for increase in costs in having to comply with a revised regime.
  • Much of the existing employment protection which has emanated from Europe reflects acceptable standards of good employee relations practices.
    For instance existing discrimination laws are an example of this.  Non-European countries have similar protections such as the United States.
  • Some areas UK Employment Law goes further than that which is required by EU legislation, for example statutory minimum holiday pay.
    This currently sits at 28 days plus public holidays whilst EU Law provides for a minimum of only 20 days annual leave.
  • Depending upon the UK’s relationship with the European Union, the Government may be required to retain EU Employment Law as part of any new deal.
    The UK could come under retaliatory pressure from the EU to main employment rights if we were seen to be unfairly undercutting them for a competitive advantage.
  • Some UK Laws are purely domestic in origin. For instance the recent right to shared parental leave shared parental pay is an example of this.
    Part of the current Government’s drive in recent years has been to improve working conditions for the lower paid (shown by the increase in minimum wage and the introduction of a living wage). It is unlikely these laws will change as a result of leaving the EU.

The UK’s legal system has become tightly interwoven with that of the EU. The process of untangling our laws is likely to be a long, complex, and expensive process.
More likely than not, the existing EU-derived laws will be fettled, rather than the UK making a wholesale move away from the current system.

It is predicted by many that the areas where there could be change are as follows:

  • Working Time Regulations
    Paid holiday at 28 days/5.6 weeks including statutory holidays are likely to remain.
    However, legislation could be passed to reverse some of the holiday time cases such as accruing holiday during long-term sick leave.
    The maximum 48 hour working week could also be abolished as it is considered to be unpopular.
  • TUPE
    The TUPE laws which apply on the transfer of businesses and so those provision changes are likely to remain.
    However there could be relaxation of consultation provisions and probably to allow post transfer harmonisation of terms and conditions.
  • Agency Worker Regulations
    These are considered to be unpopular.  They implement the EU Temporary Agency Workers Directive which requires employers to offer equal terms and benefits to Agency Workers once they have been working for 12 weeks.
  • Discrimination
    Current discrimination laws are likely to remain.We already had legislation in place to prohibit sex, race and disability discrimination and other types of discrimination long before Europe required us to do so.Discrimination compensation could be capped (it is currently unlimited) which is currently forbidden under EU Law.
  • Redundancy Consultation
    The redundancy collective consultation laws stem from an EU Directive.  As these are unpopular with employers they could be watered down.
    For instance they could just require a collective consultation if say over 100 people are made redundant (rather than the current 20).
  • Family Friendly Rights
    As these for the most part exceed the existing EU rights these are likely to remain.

Given the huge impact of the Brexit vote and the lengthy unravelling process which is going to follow, it is likely to be a long time before the full implications of Brexit become clear for employers.

About the author

Glenn Jaques is a director and solicitor specialising in employment law at our Sheffield office.

For more advice on this topic or related matters:

0114 3496993 glenn.jaques@brmlaw.co.uk