The Great Repeal Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day that the UK leaves the EU. However, to provide a smooth and orderly exit, the Bill will convert EU law as it stands at the point of exit into domestic law. This is designed to ensure that the same rules and laws apply the day after exit as on the day before and, in the context of employment law, will help to give certainty to business and workers about their rights and obligations. For example, the white paper confirms that all the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 will continue to apply once the UK has left the EU. The Great Repeal Bill will convert the following into domestic law:
- Directly applicable EU laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation;
- Laws made under the European Communities Act 1972 to give effect to EU obligations, such as the Working Time Regulations; and
- Treaty rights that individuals can rely on directly, such as the right to equal pay for equal work.
One area that is particularly relevant to employment law is whether CJEU case law will apply after Brexit. The white paper makes it clear that courts and tribunals will continue to give effect to existing CJEU case law. In relation to holiday pay entitlements the document expressly states "CJEU case law governs the calculation of holiday pay entitlements for UK workers: failure to carry across that case law would be to create uncertainty for workers and employers". However, the position will be different for CJEU decisions reached after Brexit. Domestic courts will not be required to consider those cases when interpreting EU-derived rights.
The Great Repeal Bill will also allow the government to use secondary legislation to correct primary legislation "where necessary, to rectify problems occurring as a consequence of leaving the EU". This is unlikely to be particularly relevant to employment law, but the white paper confirms that the power is not intended to be used to implement policy changes. This means that any changes to EU-derived employment rights after Brexit will be implemented following a period of "full scrutiny and proper debate", as the Prime Minister puts it in her Foreword to the white paper.