It has been some time since this blog contemplated the employment law ramifications of Brexit, so the new year seems like a good opportunity to give our readers an update. Is there anything new to report?
The take away from our previous posts (which you can read here and here) was that Brexit will not have much immediate impact on employment law. Most employment laws in the UK are enshrined in domestic legislation and will remain in effect after we leave the EU. What future parliaments might do to change the country’s employment laws is more of a political question, although it’s true to say that they will be freer to change the law once the UK is no longer subject to EU law. So far, the current government has stated that they do not plan to cut back on employment rights, and so Brexit itself is unlikely to change the short-term status quo as far as our employment legislation is concerned.
That doesn’t mean that employment-related issues haven’t been in the news. Employers are still trying to figure out what the economic landscape will look like post-Brexit, and whether they will be in hiring or firing mode. Companies in the financial services sector are watching the negotiations particularly closely, because not reaching a deal with the EU on financial services before Brexit actually happens in March 2019 could mean that large numbers of financial jobs need to be moved from London to the EU for regulatory reasons.
Immigration is another flashpoint for businesses that have significant numbers of non-British EU employees in the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May made clear earlier this month that ending free movement and placing controls on immigration are key objectives, but negotiations are also focusing on guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens currently in the UK and the rights of Brits living abroad in the EU. It seems likely that those rights will be preserved in one form or another, as any alternative would be politically and economically disastrous. But in the meantime, the uncertainty for individuals and their employers will continue for a while longer.
So the bottom line hasn’t really changed over the last few months. For HR executives thinking about Brexit, there is still not that much they can do to prepare, other than continuing to talk to their commercial colleagues so they are ready to adapt to the personnel needs of their business as the economic consequences of Brexit become clearer, and to start thinking about how the potential changes to immigration rules might affect the workforce.