eu employment law

The Impact of Brexit on UK Employment Law

Written by: Claire d'Humilly de Serraval

It is undeniable that the UK employment law has been substantively shaped and widened by the EU law over the years. The EU legislation as implemented in our legal system contributed to confer wider protection to the UK employees. To name only a few, we can be thankful for the rights not to be unfairly discriminated, the working time regulations, annual leave and family leave rights, collective rights and employees’ protection affected by a transfer of undertaking.

Four months have passed since the Leave vote and not much seems to have happened (on the Brexit side, not on the political drama side). So where do we stand on our employment rights?

Since June 2016 we expect that the Brexit should not trigger any major change to the UK employment Law framework, on the basis that the EU legislations are now a core part of the UK legal system. It thereafter became clearer that redrafting the entire UK legal system – on top of renegotiating worldwide trade agreements - is such a cumbersome task that there are not enough parliamentary time, ministers or even civil servants to decide to wipe out the current legislations as to suppress the existing EU provisions.

However, in the longer term and depending on the Brexit model which will be negotiated, there is a risk that some employment law provisions may be amended or deleted. Particularly those which were unpopular with businesses might be reviewed: such as the basic protections for agency workers to benefit from the same employment conditions as their colleagues directly recruited by their employer and the high protections benefiting employees of a business being transferred to another. There are speculations that the UK post Brexit could be veering towards more liberal laws which would be less favourable to employees and jeopardising their fundamental rights.

Mid-October 2016, a list of 170 questions has been put to the government, including whether the EU employment protections would remain in force. It has been suggested that the government could reply to one question every day in order that a clear plan may be established by the end of March 2017. We eagerly await the government’s daily responses to those – if this ever happens – so that we may get some clarity on our position and on our future. Considering the proposed immigration reforms - for businesses to declare the nationalities of their employees, the uncertainty on the EU workers’ status, the further curbs to the non-EEA migrants’ visas – it appears that the upcoming immigration law reforms would impact both employers and employees to the risk of endangering our current non-discrimination laws.

To see the full list of 170 questions, click here.

If you would like advice on employment law as a result of Brexit or in preparation for the UK leaving the EU, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Claire is a Solicitor specialising in commercial matters. In her spare time, she likes to travel and play tennis. She has a bachelor's degree in English law and a masters degree in European law. She speaks four European languages.