As we all now know, the UK made the momentous decision to leave the EU on 23 June. What does this mean for employment law in the UK?
UK laws originating from the EU
Much of UK employment law originates from EU law eg discrimination, certain family friendly rights,working time, minimum holidays allowances, transfer of undertakings (TUPE), collective redundancy consultation and agency workers’ rights. As those rights have been incorporated into UK legislation, this means that they will remain in place until action is taken to repeal them.
The current thinking is that those laws would not be completely abolished as many of those rights are now viewed in the workplace and business as accepted norms.
A more likely outcome is that the UK would want to make piecemeal changes to these laws to deal with specific concerns eg calculation and carrying forward of holiday pay, the level of compensation for discrimination, the trigger point for collective redundancy consultation, amongst others.
When might this happen?
We don’t anticipate that any employment law changes will happen in the near future as leaving the EU will take up to two years after the UK has triggered Article 50.
The UK’s ability to change or abolish laws originating from the EU is likely to depend to a large extent on the trade deals that it concludes with the EU.
If, for example, the UK were to follow the “Norway option” and become a member of the EEA, it would, in practical terms, still be subject to most aspects of EU law. Both Norway and Switzerland have to comply with free movement of people in order to participate in the EU internal market. This would be unsatisfactory for a UK Government which would be likely to point towards the leading role that Immigration played in the decision to leave the EU.
The UK may seek to negotiate individual trade deals with the EU where it did not have to comply with EU law and the free movement of people. However, the current message from the EU is that the UK will not be able to secure favourable access to the EU’s internal market without free movement of people: a resounding “Non!”
Time will tell
We will therefore be watching for many years to come before we know how employment law in the UK will change after Brexit. We are certainly living in interesting times…
If you have any employment law queries, please contact Julia Woodhouse on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02476 531532.
This Bulletin is not intended to provide advice.