The effect of Britain leaving the EU on employers and employees

As the UK enters a transition period with the EU we look at what BREXIT will mean to the employment landscape.

The Current Position.

A great deal of the UK’s current employment legislation is derived from EU laws, this includes:

• The right to a written statement setting out pay and working conditions within 28 days of commencement of employment;
• Working time regulations and the introduction of the maximum 48-hour week;
• Maternity rights, to include the amendment of Sex Discrimination law to include a separate category of Pregnancy Discrimination, as well as the introduction of parental leave rights;
• Equality rights, to include equal pay rights;
• Anti-discrimination rights;
• TUPE protections and in particular, the harmonisation of contracts after a TUPE transfer;
• Collective bargaining;
• Rights to information and consultation between employers and employees, particularly in the context of restructuring and redundancies;
• Health and Safety regulations and in particular, the obligations for employers to evaluate, avoid and reduce workplace risks; and
• Agency worker rights;
This list is not exhaustive. Whilst EU Law is prevalent within UK employment legislation, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is unlikely in itself to have an immediate impact on our employment laws.

Transitionary period

From 31 January 2020 the UK will be in a transition period which will end on 31 December 2020. During this period, EU law will continue to apply to the UK and existing EU law will be converted into domestic law.
Most of the EU’s employment law Directives have already been implemented in the UK either by regulations or Acts of Parliament and an example from the above list are the EU equality Directives which were implemented by the Equality Act 2010.
After the transition period ends it will then be for Parliament to decide whether to retain, amend or repeal domestic legislation to replace the EU legislation and roll back employment regulation. It is possible that the UK will be required to continue to implement elements of EU legislation as a condition of a negotiated trade deal between the UK and EU.
After the EU Withdrawal Agreement Act 2020

In addition to being influenced by EU Directions, many important areas of UK Employment law have been shaped by decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), such as discrimination law. Under the EU Withdrawal Agreement, after the end of the transition period, the UK courts will no longer be bound by the decisions of the ECJ as the EU Withdrawal Agreement enables the Government to make regulations allowing lower courts and tribunals to deviate from existing EU case law.

Whilst the employment landscape for employees does not appear to be changing significantly in the distant future, there is still a level of uncertainty as to the rights of EU-derived workers. Within the previous version of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Government sought to include provisions to safeguard the rights of workers originating from EU Countries by implementing an obligation on the government to consult employer bodies and trade unions and issue a “non-regression statement” confirming that the rights of workers originating from EU Countries would not be watered down by any new proposals, before any changes could be made to workers’ rights. Whilst these provisions have now been entirely removed from the Withdrawal Agreement, the government has said that it intends to legislate separately to protect and enhance workers’ rights in a new Employment Bill, which is presently intended to be introduced this year.

How Tolhurst Fisher can help

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Author: Amy Hadley