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Brexit - what does it mean for employers and employees?
In recent weeks I have frequently been asked what the legal implications for employers/employees will be. With the triggering of Article 50 on 29th March 2017 and the details of the Repeal Bill having been published I thought it would be appropriate to set out my current thoughts on this question.
A significant proportion of UK employment law including discrimination rights, family leave, working time regulations, collective consultation obligations, transfer of undertakings and duties to agency workers are derived from the EU. Following Brexit the Government could repeal all of this however I do not anticipate that they will. My reasons are as follows:
• Some employment rights were already provided by UK law before the EU ruled they should be in place, such as UK equal pay, race and disability discrimination laws and the right to return to work from maternity leave.
• Many UK laws are seen by both employees and employers as a good thing. Therefore why would a Government choose to upset these key voters?
• Some UK rights go further than the EU requirements such as family leave, so the government has already chosen to be more generous than what the EU legislation prescribed.
• There will continue to be the need for the UK to stay in a relationship with the EU and thus a more compelling reason that the UK will need to continue to observe EU law. This could be the price of a trade agreement with the EU.
The Government have said that they want businesses to continue operating on the day after the UK leaves the EU. They have said however they want to “end the supremacy” of EU law. Following Brexit the Government may take the opportunity to amend some areas to reduce the burden on companies, including:
• Amending or repealing the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.
• Introducing a cap on compensation for discrimination similar to that for unfair dismissal.
• Amending TUPE to make it more business friendly (for example, by making it easier to amend terms following a TUPE transfer).
• Addressing the issue of whether employees accrue holiday while off sick.
• Removing the cap on maximum weekly working hours.
Disentangling the UK from its EU commitments will be a lengthy process. The UK is required to give two years' notice of an intention to leave the EU. During this period, the parties will negotiate the terms of the departure and it is likely that new trade arrangements will be put in place. The Government could then gradually repeal EU-derived employment laws, or, as is perhaps more likely, modify them to make them more palatable to UK businesses.
Therefore I do not anticipate that there will be an immediate impact to employers/employees, unlike in respect of financial services, competition law and such like however in the medium term there could well be some changes, although I foresee these will be to reduce the burden on employers.
If you have any queries arising from this article or any general employment query then please do not hesitate to give me a call on 01803 403403 and ask for Catherine West.
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