Following the vote to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 there has been a lot of uncertainty around what the decision actually means. It would seem that no one who is likely to be involved in the BREXIT process has yet formulated a clear plan on what it will mean and how it will be implemented. However, it will undoubtedly result in big changes.
UK employment law is significantly influenced by the EU. So, what will BREXIT mean for UK employment law? At the moment we can only speculate and future development of employment law will, as always, depend on the political leanings of future Governments. However, we can speculate that BREXIT may not have as big of an impact on UK employment law as we may first assume.
Some UK employment laws, for example those in relation to equal pay and race discrimination, preceded EU laws. There is no reason to believe that leaving the EU would lead to such laws being repealed. It is also highly unlikely that any government would seek to repeal or significantly water down rights (which come from the EU) to minimum annual leave or protections against sexual orientation or age discrimination. Such proposals are unlikely to be vote winners! Whatever the UK’s future arrangements with the EU look like it, it will likely involve some form of access to the single market. The EU will place some conditions on this access and it is reasonable to assume some of those conditions will relate to protection of workers’ rights. For these reasons the impact on UK employment law will not necessarily be significant. Below we look at some of the most significant areas of EU influence and consider how BREXIT may or may not impact upon the current law:
Many of you who have spent hours struggling with TUPE may welcome the Government sending this one back to Brussels. However, this seems unlikely. Whilst TUPE can be difficult to understand, it is generally welcomed by businesses and employees alike. At the very least we can expect something that is TUPE-like following BREXIT.
Critics of the EU often complain about the restrictions placed upon working time (i.e. the average 48 hour working week). The reality is that the restrictions are not a particular burden on employers. Those who need employees to work longer hours can and often do ask employees to opt-out of the average 48 hour working week and many employees are willing to do so. However, this is an area future Governments could make changes to with a view to seeking an easy win with businesses.
It is as a result of EU jurisprudence that employees on sick leave continue to accrue annual leave and the calculation of holiday pay now includes the likes of non-guaranteed overtime. Leaving the EU may give the Government the scope to weaken those protections going forward.
Most commentators seem to believe that if one area of law is to be repealed, it would be the Agency Worker Regulations. These are not seen as particularly helpful regulations or indeed popular.
There is a very long way to go before we know exactly the implications of a BREXIT and how this will impact on UK employment laws. We will keep you updated on any developments over what is likely to be the next several years!