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  • Published:
    25 April
  • Area of Law:

Brexit - where are we?

There is no doubt that “Brexit” is high on the media, business and political agenda, and I suspect that it will remain so well beyond the actual referendum in June 2016.

Are we likely to see any changes if we decide to leave the EU?

The simple answer is that much will depend on the model (if any) that is adopted to replace the current relationship between the UK and the EU.

Any future trading arrangement with the EU is likely to require compliance with various existing and future EU employment and social policies. For that reason alone, it is unlikely that there will be any wholesale change to UK employment law. Europe will be keen to ensure that the UK is not reducing certain employment protections for its workers in order to gain a competitive advantage. There is also a two year notice period for the UK to serve before the UK does actually leave the EU, which needs to be considered. Again, it’s unlikely that any changes will occur during that period.

A significant proportion of the UK’s employment law is derived through the EU, and this has become embedded in UK law through legislation and case law, which will not be easy to unravel if the Government does undertake a review. In addition, many of those protections are now seen as accepted standards of good industrial relations, for example prevention of discrimination, family leave, fixed rest breaks and minimum annual leave provisions. Those areas are unlikely to be affected.

However, there is no doubt that some of the EU provisions are unpopular with UK businesses as they are seen to restrict business or incur additional layers of cost. For that reason, the Government will come under pressure to review UK employment law following Brexit.

Examples of the most likely areas for review could be:

• The introduction of a financial cap on discrimination claims (currently these are uncapped);
• The ability for an employer to harmonise terms and conditions following a business transfer (TUPE);
• Clarification around how holiday pay is calculated and how holidays are accrued;
• Revocation of the Agency Workers Regulations as these are seen to be overly complex and restrictive;
• Removal of the 48 hour limit on weekly working.

We’ll certainly gain more clarity around potential changes once the UK’s relationship with the EU is clarified after the referendum, but for now it seems that significant changes are unlikely.

Please don’t hesitate to contact a member of the Employment Team if you need to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other employment related matters.

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