Brexit - what next for employment law?

Brexit - what next for employment law?

The European Union is now arguably the leading source of UK employment law. Domestic legislation giving rise to employment rights fills thousands of pages and the reported cases fill many thousands more. In such uncertain times it's impossible to accurately predict the future direction of travel of UK employment law. It is possible, however, to have an educated guess. What follows is our view of the future for UK employment law post-Brexit.

Immediate Change or Note

It is highly unlikely that there will be any immediate change, not least because we have implemented all the EU Directives into domestic regulations which remain binding. Simply leaving the EU will not repeal those regulations, the regulations themselves would have to be repealed. In the longer term, the shape of UK employment law is likely to be dictated by the trading model we adopt, whether it is Norwegian model or the Swiss model, or whether we simply rely on our membership of the World Trade Organisation.

Depending on the model ultimately chosen, we may remain bound by European employment law in any event.

Future Proofing – A Change of Direction

Even if we were to adopt a model giving us full freedom, it is unlikely that there would be root and branch reform of UK employment law. Employment protection in its current form reflects what have become accepted standards of good employee relations practices. The anti-discrimination legislation in particular is commonly understood to reflect fundamental rights. Nor is it likely that the British Government would wish to cause any significant disruption to employee relations.

Business Focused Changes

However, assuming some freedom is achieved, it can be envisaged that some changes will be made to those unpopular EU-derived laws which are considered intrusive to UK workplace relations and unnecessary red tape for British businesses.

For example, there is every chance that legislation will be introduced to reverse the rulings of the European Court of Justice relating to the continued accrual of holiday entitlement during sick leave and the inclusion of commission and overtime in holiday pay. There might also be some relaxation of the consultation requirements relating to collective redundancies and transfers of undertakings. It is possible that the 48 hour week will be repealed.

Similarly, the unpopular Agency Worker Regulations might be repealed in their entirety. Seasonal Workers Currently, about 65 per cent of agricultural workers are non-UK EU citizens and significant work in every other area of bossiness and services including the NHS, finance, manufacturing etc.. Restrictions on the freedom of movement could result in labour shortages and price increases if businesses are forced to take on alternative, more expensive, labour.

We will have two years before we exit after Article 50 is triggered and commentators are suggested it may take some years more to achieve final resolution. It is hoped that this will give the Government time to formulate the right employment and immigration policies for businesses in a post-Brexit world and in the meantime our clients continue to make the best decisions they can for the long term development of their organisations.