What does Brexit mean for UK Employment Law?
In theory, the decision to ‘Brexit’ gives the UK power to change employment legislation that has come from Europe, but what does the outcome actually mean for employers and employees alike?
Rights stemmed from EU law such as the right to paid holiday, holiday accrual when off sick and TUPE regulations are unlikely to be abandoned altogether but nor will any changes be free from controversy.
Some thoughts on how potential changes may operate in practice….
- The Equality Act 2010 implements the EU’s laws against discrimination and to repeal it seems very unlikely. The UK already had certain discrimination protection in place and together with the implementation of EU directives, anti-discrimination law has become entrenched into our working lives. Currently compensation for a discrimination claim is uncapped and some commentators have suggested that limits on awards could be bought in. Another possibility is that the UK government could change the law to allow for positive discrimination in favour of under-represented groups, currently not permitted under EU law.
- The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) could again, in theory, fall away. However it is more likely that the regulations are refined in order to repair some of the areas in dispute and to enable a slicker harmonisation of terms and conditions.
- Family-friendly laws such as rights to parental leave and pay are a mixture of EU and UK rights. Existing rights already go beyond what is required by EU law, and therefore it seems unlikely that a post-Brexit government would choose to restrict those rights in any substantial way.
- Decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have previously been binding on UK courts, and therefore UK court judgments respect and reflect EU law. With EU law embedded in UK case law, it is unclear to what extent the courts would justify a departure from precedent now that they are no longer obliged to apply ECJ judgments, but it is likely they would continue to see ECJ decisions as persuasive.
The UK is required to give two years’ notice to exit the EU during which there is likely to be a lengthy period of negotiation and during which time EU law will apply fully. In other words, nothing is going to change immediately.
It is unlikely that UK employment law will be transformed significantly; we are more likely to see refinement in problem areas to bring EU-based laws more in tune with UK businesses. In any event, change is unlikely to happen quickly, as most changes would require the approval of parliament.
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