The results of the EU referendum are now known and, by a small majority, the UK is going to leave the EU. When and how this will work in practice could not be more uncertain as matters currently stand. The implications for UK employment law will only really be known when politicians have figured out what Brexit actually means in practice.
The following are some of the areas of UK employment law which have derived from the EU:
- Working time and annual holidays;
- Rights for women (such as equal pay);
- Family friendly policies (such as pregnant workers and parental leave);
- Anti-discrimination legislation (such as equal treatment);
- Collective redundancies and TUPE;
- European Works Councils; and
- Information and consultation.
Brexit could allow the review or repeal of legislation that came out of EU directives, although this depends on the nature of any future relationship between the EU and the UK. If the UK was to repeal all EU-derived legislation, both employers and employees would face a vast amount of legal changes and it may be easier to maintain the existing state of the EU derived legislation and address particular laws individually over time.
Whilst it seems unlikely that a UK government would remove protections in the workplace against discrimination, or equal pay, it would have a free hand to amend these and other laws without fear of legal proceedings being brought by the European Commission.
Even if legislation remains un-amended following Brexit, it may be applied differently by our courts which have sometimes struggled to interpret national legislation in line with European directives. Another point which remains unclear is the extent upon which existing cases, decided by reference to European legislation, will remain binding precedents on future UK cases.
A definitive statement relating to the effects of UK employment law following Brexit has not yet been announced by the government and given the current confusion in Westminster it may be some time until this becomes any clearer. We will continue to report over the coming months as and when announcements are made.
If you have any questions arising from this article or would like further information on Brexit and UK employment law, please get in touch with a member of our Employment team.