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Murray McKintosh News Article

What does Brexit mean for UK Employment Law?

Written by:

Jessica Kavanagh

Back in June, the British people voted to leave the European Union and Liam Fox believes that trade negotiations between the UK and the EU will be finished by 2020. However, there is more than just trade that needs to be discussed before Article 50 is triggered, such as how it will affect UK Employment Law.

Much of our employment law was created in Brussels where EU directives protected the rights of workers throughout each member state covering a variety of individual rights, including annual holidays and anti-discrimination legislation and collective rights regarding, for example, collective redundancies. So, with Britain’s exit underway, the question on every HR executive’s lips is will there be any changes to the current law?

In the short-term nothing will change. However, the Government could dismantle the laws if parliamentary approval was gathered, this would mean that the government would potentially have two years to work through four decades worth of employment legislation.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC and Keir Starmer, Labour MP have both penned their concerns in an article for The Guardian, commenting on the workers’ rights that could face uncertainty in the next few years:

“We are particularly concerned about what will happen to entitlements, to annual leave and rest breaks, to parental leave, to rights for agency, part-time and temporary workers and to protections if your job is outsourced or your company sold off.”

Alternatively, back in March the CIPD published an article saying that employment law would not be affected by a Brexit vote:

“There is a whole swathe of national employment legislation that incorporate EU rights and principles that will remain unaffected by Brexit unless, and until, those laws are repealed. A UK government would be unlikely to remove protections in the workplace against discrimination, or scrap the principle of equal pay, as its own legislation pre-dates its’ joining the EU.”

Britain has usually had a good relationship with the EU in regards to employment law. In some cases we took the directive even further, as was the case with The Working Time Directive which derived from the EU at a time when UK workers didn’t have a statutory right to paid annual leave. Originally, the directive only stated that workers needed 20 days of paid annual leave, however the UK Government increased this to a total of 28 days, including bank holidays.

While this is another leap into the unknown for Britain, the chances of us seeing our working lives change dramatically is slim. The most likely scenario we’ll see is that once Britain has become independent from the European Union, the bulk of employment law would remain while the Government take a more granular approach, addressing and tinkering with individual laws over time. 

Sources:

  1. The Independent www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/brexit-liam-fox-says-britain-and-eu-trade-negotiations-will-be-finished-by-2020-a7157426.html
  2. The Guardian www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/26/workers-rights-brexit-negotiations-unions
  3. CIPD www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/03/04/brexit-s-effect-on-national-employment-law-may-be-limited.aspx

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